Is sole legal child custody always best for a concerned parent?

On Behalf of | May 9, 2024 | Child Custody

When a pair of New York parents settle a divorce, they must sign an agreement regarding their children. No two families are the same, and an issue that is important to one set of parents may be irrelevant to another. When it comes to child custody, many parents automatically assume it would be in their favor to have sole legal custody of their kids.

Is this always the best option? As with most legally binding agreements, there are potential benefits and downsides to obtaining sole legal child custody in a divorce. A parent considering filing a motion to request it will want to carefully consider all possible implications, then determine if it is in the children’s best interests.

Two types of child custody

Child custody is about more than where your kids live after a divorce. That issue is part of what’s called “physical custody.” Legal custody, on the other hand, refers to the authority to make decisions on behalf of your children regarding important life issues like education, health, faith and more. If you request sole physical and legal custody of your kids, you must be prepared to accept 100% of the responsibilities.

Benefits of legal custody

Here are several potential benefits you might gain from having sole legal custody of your children following a divorce:

  • Your correspondence or communication with your ex can be minimal.
  • There is no room for an ex to stonewall you — that is, leave you and the kids hanging while you await his or her approval for a decision.
  • If your ex is abusive or has a substance abuse problem or mental illness, sole legal custody can help you protect your children.
  • If you and your ex often argue about discipline or other child-related issues, there will be less parental conflict (which is better for the kids) because you can make decisions without consulting the other parent.

In a high-conflict case, especially if the court has deemed your ex to be unfit for physical custody, requesting sole legal custody might be the best option.

What are the downsides?

Before deciding whether to seek sole legal custody of your children, consider these possible downsides:

  • The parent without legal custody might feel excluded and become distant from the children.
  • If your ex resents the fact that the court has granted your request, he or she may become argumentative.
  • It’s challenging to be the sole decision-making authority in a child’s life — all the responsibility rests with you.
  • The children might consider one parent (the one with legal custody) to be “more important” than the other.

If these issues do not concern you, and you believe that having sole legal custody of your children is what’s best for them, you can learn more about how to file a motion in the appropriate New York court.

Divorce is never easy, but you can help your kids cope by making informed child custody decisions that keep their best interests in mind and reaching out for additional support as needed.