How Full Custody in California Works

mother lying down beside her son

As you embark on the process of divorce, you no doubt feel a sense of relief: you have taken the steps to move on from a partnership that no longer serves you. When you and your future ex-spouse have children together, however, the process can become a little more convoluted, particularly if you know that you should have full custody of your children going forward.

How does one get full custody in California? Let’s review what sole custody means, factors that go into it, and what to expect in contested divorce cases wherein custody plays a pivotal role.

What Is Full Custody in California?

“Full custody” refers to having sole custody of your children following your divorce proceeding, meaning that you are granted primary caregiving responsibilities until the child is over 18 or other agreed-upon arrangement. 

Sole custody exists in two forms: sole physical custody and sole legal custody. 

Sole Physical Custody

If you are awarded sole physical custody during your divorce, this means your children will live exclusively with you moving forward but will have the opportunity to visit with the other parent as well. Sole physical custody differs from joint physical custody, where the children would reside with both of their parents on a set schedule.

Sole Legal Custody

If you are granted sole legal custody in California, this means that only you will have the authority to make decisions regarding your children’s welfare, safety, and health. For instance, only you will get to decide where your children will attend school. In addition, you will be the one to determine what health care treatments your children will receive. With joint legal custody, both you and the other parent would have the right to make major decisions that affect your children.

Still, keep in mind that even if you are awarded sole legal custody, the other party will still be allowed to access your children’s records. Likewise, they can remain on your children’s lists of emergency contacts because he or she is one of the children’s biological parents.

How to Get Full Custody in California

If you and the other parent are at odds about how to approach child custody, then you will need to go through the mediation process to see if you can reach an agreement regarding sharing custody. If you cannot resolve custodial issues during mediation, you will be allowed to take this issue to a California family law court. A judge will then make a final custody decision for both parents in a hearing. As a general rule of thumb, family courts prefer for parents to share custody so that both parents can play a key role in the children’s lives.

In light of the above, to receive full custody, you will need to present persuasive evidence demonstrating that it is in your children’s best interests for you to receive full custody rather than sharing custody with the other parent. Instances where this may play a pivotal role would be if one parent is contending with substance abuse issues, has a history of leaving the child alone at home for long periods, or where there are other concerns that indicate the individual is unfit for caring for a child solo. You will need to clearly state this for the court and draw up evidence when requested by your attorney and the judge.

Silhouette of a parent with their child at sunset on the beachAdditional Tips for Getting Full Custody

If you are wondering how to get full custody in California, note that a judge might also determine your fitness for sole custody based on your demeanor while in court. It is critical to maintain your composure.

A family law judge will additionally consider how prepared you are for the proceeding when determining whether you should receive full custody in California. For instance, do you possess concrete documents to support your position for sole custody? And do you have an attorney working with you during the hearing? For contested divorce in which childrens’ welfare may be at stake, working with an attorney is paramount to ensure the best possible outcomes. Note that in certain situations other state agencies may have to be involved, as well, if either parent has been accused of ill treatment or if both parents’ fitness for custody is in question.

What If You Are Facing a Sole Custody Order Against You?

Perhaps the other parent is the one who is seeking full custody in California. In this situation, it is important that you remain vigilant in your opposition by demonstrating why the parent requesting sole custody doesn’t meet the burden of proof required by California’s family law.

In addition, you have the option of making a counter full custody request if the other parent requested full custody in bad faith. For instance, the other parent may have engaged in various types of misconduct, including abuse or making false allegations, improperly influencing the children, or even parental alienation. An attorney can help you to make your case in this situation so that the other party is not unjustly awarded full custody in California.


Working with Attorney Michael C. MacNeil When Seeking Full Custody

If you are pursuing full custody in California, I, attorney Michael C. MacNeil, can help you to achieve your goal. Contact me today for a free consultation regarding your custody situation, and let’s work together to pursue the best solution for you and your children.

About Michael MacNeil

Michael C. MacNeil is a San Diego Family Law and Criminal Defense attorney. With a Juris Doctor degree from the University of San Diego School of Law, MacNeil has a solid understanding of our justice system. As a member of the State Bar of California, MacNeal can practice before all courts in the state. MacNeil believes that the law should be accessible to everyone, regardless of their financial status. With over 20 years of experience, Michael C. MacNeil is passionate about the law and will work tirelessly to get the best possible outcome for you. Call Mr. MacNeil at 858-922-7098.