The end of your marriage or your long-term romantic relationship will mean a lot of changes in your life. You may move to a new home or rework your schedule at your job so that you are available for your children.
Those who stop cohabitating with the other parent of their children will need to split custody, which will involve dividing both parenting time and decision-making responsibilities. Judges typically prefer shared custody scenarios as they view such arrangements as the best option for the children.
However, there are a few, unusual scenarios in which you can secure sole custody of your children. When is sole custody possible for Pennsylvania parents?
When your ex agrees
Maybe your ex is still an active duty military service number, and they know deployment is in their near future, or perhaps they work as a third-shift custodian and won’t be able to parent during the day.
If your ex agrees with you that you should have sole custody of your kids, you pursue uncontested family law proceedings instead of litigating.
When your ex is abusive
A parent who has anger issues and who has been physically violent toward the children or toward the other parent in the family may not be capable of safely and appropriately parenting without support and supervision.
The courts may grant one parent sole custody if they have documentation of abuse, such as medical records or police reports. Verbal accusations are often insufficient to convince a judge to limit a parent’s time with the children.
When your ex is unhealthy or unstable
Physical issues, like late-stage cancer, could prevent an otherwise loving parent from providing for their children’s basic needs. Mental health issues like depression or post-traumatic stress disorder can also impact someone’s parenting capabilities.
If you have documentation that shows that your ex is quite unhealthy physically or mentally, including if they have a chemical dependence issue, you might be able to convince a judge to limit their time with your children.
In fact, if your ex is very unstable, that could influence custody matters too. If someone doesn’t have income or housing, a judge may determine that they are not currently capable of providing children with everything that they need.
Unless you have either the cooperation of your ex or a very compelling reason to ask for sole custody, a judge is unlikely to grant you 100% of the overnight parenting time for your children. In fact, requesting sole custody without good cause might make a judge skeptical of your ability to put the children’s needs ahead of your own wishes.
Understanding what influences child custody orders in Pennsylvania can help parents moving on from an unhealthy or unhappy relationship.