mom and daughter laying together smiling

Everything You Should Know About Sole Custody

Custody is either awarded on a joint or sole basis. In most cases, the courts want to allow for joint custody whenever possible. However, sole custody may be awarded under certain circumstances. In the end, the decision is made based on what is best for the child. If you are considering seeking sole custody, here’s what you should know.

Sole vs. Joint Custody

These two types of custody are relatively self-explanatory. Sole custody is when one parent is granted legal and/or physical custody of a child. Joint custody is when parents share legal and/or physical custody.

Legal custody refers to the parent’s right to decide for the child regarding: education, medical care, and other long-term decisions about major factors in the child’s life.
Physical custody is where the child resides.

Typically, if you are awarded sole legal custody, you are also awarded sole physical custody.

Reasons Why Sole Custody is Awarded

In general, sole custody is awarded if one parent is unfit to care for the child, or is a potential threat to the child’s safety.

Some common reasons why some parents may be granted sole legal and physical custody include:

  • Substance abuse: if one parent suffers from substance abuse disorder, the court may see this as a danger to the child and take away their custody rights.
  • Physical abuse: if one parent has a history of abuse or domestic violence, it can affect their custody and visitation rights.
  • Neglect: if there is a past pattern of neglect, the courts can infer that this will continue and that the parent should not be given custody of the child.
  • Mental illness: some severe mental illnesses may render a parent unable to safely care for their child.

Sole custody may also be awarded if one parent becomes incarcerated or if the custodial parent moves a significant distance away from the non-custodial parent.

Pros and Cons of Sole Custody

Choosing to pursue sole custody is a big decision; you should be aware of all of the responsibilities you will have as the sole legal and physical custodian of your child.


This can be both positive and negative. When you have sole legal custody, you won’t have to discuss major decisions with your ex. This means you can make whatever decisions you feel are best without having to consult someone else. On the other hand, this also means that your decisions hold a lot of weight. You may feel overwhelmed having to make all major decisions for your child on your own.

Financial Costs

Something else you should keep in mind is the cost of sole custody. If your child lives with you full time, this will add to your grocery, electric, and other bills. However, you may still be eligible to receive child support payments when you have sole custody. If the non-custodial parent terminates their parental rights, they will no longer be required to pay child support. However, this is a complex process, and rights cannot be terminated simply because they do not want to make mandatory child support payments. The courts will consider the best interests of the child before allowing one parent to voluntarily relinquish their rights.

Less Conflict

When you have sole custody, there is less reason to interact with the child’s other parent. This will naturally decrease the conflict between you. This is beneficial not only for your wellbeing but also for your child, who won’t have to experience negativity between their parents.


With sole custody, you can provide your child with stability. If you are granted sole custody, it’s likely that the other parent is unreliable, or potentially dangerous in some way. With sole custody, your child will not have to experience living in an unpredictable environment.

Salt Lake City Custody Lawyers

At Lokken & Putnam, P.C., we want the best for your child. If you believe that getting sole custody is in their best interests, contact our child custody attorneys today. Once we learn about your situation, we can help provide guidance on your next best steps. Call us at (801) 829-9783 to get started.