When to Request Sole Custody

Custody issues are often the most sensitive and central of any family law case.  The safety and well-being of the children is of upmost importance to the parents involved, and they are often willing to fight for a long time in court to make sure that the ultimate court order reflects what they believe is in the child’s best interest.  The vast majority of cases end with parents sharing joint legal custody.  This means that the parents must both cooperate and participate in make decisions about major issues for the child, such as education, religion, and non-emergency health care.  Physical custody, by contrast, refers to the time the child is physically in the care and control of the other parent.  In some situations, a parent may wonder when it is the right time to request sole custody.

A prime consideration for legal custody is whether the other parent has repeatedly and consistently made poor or even detrimental decisions concerning the child in the past.  For example, if the other parent has a history of frequently changing the child’s school without warning, this may be a reason to request sole custody.  Stability is paramount for children, especially when it comes to education.  If the other parent is unable or unwilling to provide that stability, it may be appropriate to request sole legal custody.  There are also times when the parent may be making poor medical decisions.  This could arise when a parent consistently refuses to properly treat a child for a diagnosed condition, such as ADHD, in such a way that a child is experiencing substantial and adverse consequences. 

For physical custody, the courts will look to whether the parent is providing what could be an unsafe environment.  This could come in several forms.  An unsafe environment can be a result of a parent’s conduct.  For example, if the parent is consistently abusing substances, especially in the presence of the child, this would be an unsafe environment.  A filthy home could also be an unsafe environment.  In some circumstances, what would not be unsafe for one child would be unsafe for another. 

We have helped many clients with deciding whether requesting sole custody may be appropriate for their case. at (732) 529-6937 to let us help you with your divorce or custody case.

About the Author


John Nachlinger is a co-founder and managing attorney of Netsquire, a family law firm focused on streamlining divorces through effective mediation, settlement drafting, and court filing assistance. As a New Jersey Supreme Court Certified Matrimonial Law Attorney and Qualified Mediator, John guides couples toward equitable agreements without the cost and stress of litigation.

Recognized as a New Jersey Super Lawyer for over a decade, John’s client-focused approach aims to foster understanding during challenging transitions. With a background spanning top law journals, judicial clerkships, and boutique family law firms, John now applies his analytical skills to create workable solutions for all parties. His mediation services reshape the divorce journey by prioritizing compassion and compromise.

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