I want to get full legal custody.
Full custody can mean a few different things, so let us define the term first. Often people mean all of the physical custody when they say full custody. But full custody can also include legal custody. Legal custody and physical custody are two different concepts.
Generally a parent with legal custody has a right to make decisions about life issues such as medical matters, schooling and religion. Even when the other parent is exercising custody or visitation, the right of legal custody still applies. Most parents retain legal custody even when the physical custody is divided in an uneven fashion. So even a parent with full physical custody (and no visitation in the other parent ) would still have a duty to get the other parent’s input on a change in schooling if that other parent had legal custody.
Physical custody is the right to have the child in your control, generally in your home for a period of time. Most custody arrangements divide this physical custody of the child between the two parents, such that each has distinct periods of physical custody. The exact division is either shared equally or unequally with the child going back and forth as the agreement or order dictates. A typical arrangement can be an equal division, such as week-on / week-off, or an unequal division such as every other weekend with one parent or the other.
So if you want full custody you will need to decide if that includes exclusive physical custody as well as legal custody. Then you have to determine if it is realistic under the circumstance. The law has rules for how to make these divisions, and rules as to when an exclusive award of custody is appropriate.
The best interest of the child is generally presumed to include contact with both parents. Most courts will not exclude an interested parent from at least some visitation, unless they are a clear and present danger to the child, or otherwise so unfit that even supervised visitations would be deemed not in the child’s best interest.
So if by full custody you mean primary physical custody with some visitation in the other parent, than this is probably obtainable, particularly if the other parent is less fit, or less interested. If you mean completely excluding the other parent, you will need proof that they are dangerous to the child. A court will even give a bad parent limited visitation, so long as there is no actual immediate danger to the child. If you do want to terminate the other parent's rights to the child, in most instances this can only be done by adoption.
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