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When to request sole child custody in divorce

On Behalf of | Apr 12, 2022 | Child Custody

Many Pennsylvania families are currently adapting to new lifestyles after the parents decided they would rather go their separate ways than remain in an unhappy marriage. Such a decision has immediate and far-reaching implications on the lives of each family member, especially children. Child custody is a priority topic in divorce, especially if one parent is wants sole custody.  

A family court judge often reviews matters concerning physical and legal custody of children in a divorce. The latter refers to a parent’s authority to make important life decisions on behalf of a child. The former typically pertains to a child’s primary residence after divorce. A parent requesting sole child custody is essentially saying that he or she should have the sole authority to make decisions regarding the kids’ health, education, religion or other important issues.  

A judge will expect evidence to back up claims  

The court does not take child custody decisions lightly. A parent requesting sole custody must convince the court that there is a justifiable reason for the request, like:  

  • The other parent is addicted to drugs or alcohol.  
  • The other parent has been diagnosed with mental illness. 
  • The other parent is incarcerated. 
  • There is evidence to show that the other parent is abusive. 
  • Child neglect or abandonment are justifiable concerns.  

These are examples of issues that might convince a family court judge that children’s interests would be best served if one parent is awarded sole custody in a divorce. 

Seeking modification of an existing child custody order 

Any number of issues (such as those mentioned in the previous section) may arise after a divorce that would prompt a concerned parent to request modification of an existing court order. For instance, a co-parent might develop a substance abuse problem after a divorce is finalized. In such cases, a Pennsylvania parent may request sole child custody but must continue to adhere to any existing court order unless and until it is changed — something which could be accomplished on an emergency basis.