How Does a Mother Get Full Custody?

By River Braun, J.D.

How Does a Mother Get Full Custody?

By River Braun, J.D.

A mother can obtain full custody if she can demonstrate to the court that shared custody could negatively impact her children.

Mother talking on the phone and sitting next to her son at a conference table looking at an open laptop

Many people still assume that young children should be in the care and custody of their mother. In the past, some states had policies or case law referred to as the “Tender Years Doctrine." These said that children under a certain age should always remain in their mother's custody except in cases of abuse or other substantial wrongdoing that would place the children at risk for harm.

However, today, the law in most states now presumes that mothers and fathers begin a custody case with equal standing. The assumption is that children benefit from close and ongoing relationships with both parents. Therefore, shared custody or equal time-sharing is often preferred over sole custody.

The Best Interest of the Child

The courts seek to award custody based on the best interest of the child. Even though most children benefit from joint custody, some situations may warrant sole legal and physical custody being granted to the mother. If you want to gain sole custody of your child, you must provide evidence to the court that proves that any other type of custody agreement would not be in your child's best interest.

Even though the court may grant you sole custody, the judge will likely give visitation rights to your child's other parent, unless spending time together would be detrimental to your child.

Determining the Best Interest of the Child

Most states have enacted laws or established through case law the various factors a judge should consider when determining the best interest of the child. These considerations vary by state but typically include:

  • The age of the child.
  • The health of each parent and each parent's ability to care for the child.
  • The child's specific needs.
  • Any history of abuse or neglect.
  • The existing relationship between the child and each parent.
  • The wishes of the child (depending on age).
  • The bonds the child has with step-siblings and other relatives.
  • Any other factor that is relevant to determining the child's best interest.

If you are getting a divorce and want to seek full custody, you may want to focus on proving that your child's other parent does not have the ability to physically care for the child. For example, perhaps he provides an unsafe home environment or has not established or maintained a relationship with the child. A history of physical abuse or substance abuse would also be a serious consideration for the court to consider.

You and your child's father can also work out a custody arrangement that is best for your child between yourselves. In some cases, parties use mediation to work out an agreement regarding custody. Working together is usually the best way to obtain an arrangement that is best for the entire family. However, if you go to court, the judge will still review the agreement to ensure it meets the standard for the best interests of the child.

When the father of your child has created an unsafe environment that is not in the best interest of your child, it is possible to get full custody by showing the negative impact joint custody would have on the child.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.