When it comes to raising children post-separation, BC Family Law favours the involvement of both parents. But the law also recognizes that there are situations where shared parenting is not workable. In those situations, it is possible for one parent to get full custody.
What is full custody?
Our child custody lawyers recently discussed the different types of legal custody. Joint custody is when parents share custody of a child after they separate. Full custody—which is also known as sole custody—is when one parent has exclusive custody of a child. A parent who has full custody will have both legal custody (the right to make decisions for the child) and physical custody (the child primarily resides with them). The non-custodial parent typically has contact with the child and may have visitation rights. Supervised access may be necessary if there are concerns about the well-being of the child while visiting with the non-custodial parent.
How do I get full custody?
Parents may decide that one parent should have full custody and sign a written custody agreement to that effect. If parents can’t agree, then it will be necessary to apply to the court for a custody order. Remember that the default rule in BC is that both parents share child custody and parenting responsibilities. It can be challenging to convince the court to make a custody order that deviates from the rule. To get full custody, a parent must prove it’s in the best interests of the child.
When is sole custody in the best interest of the child?
BC courts may be more inclined to order full custody in situations where one parent was abusive, violent, or neglectful. If one parent abandons the child, moves out of the province or country, or goes to prison, sole custody is more likely. Substance abuse (drugs or alcohol) and serious mental instability will also factor into custody decisions. Every situation is unique. We recommend talking to a Family Lawyer about whether sole custody is in your child’s best interests.
What will I need to prove to get an order for full custody?
To get full custody, you must prove several factors to the court, including that:
- You are a good parent who can meet the child’s needs;
- The child lives (or will live) full time with you, and if the child is over the age of 12, that the child wants to live with you;
- The other parent is unfit or incapable of having custody of the child, or that joint custody is not possible (e.g., because the other parent has moved to another country); and
- Full custody will provide the child with safety and stability that outweighs the benefit to the child of both parents sharing in their upbringing.
If the other parent fails to respond to your custody application or does not oppose it, the process will be somewhat easier. However, because the overriding test is the best interests of the child, the parent seeking custody will still need to satisfy the court that sole custody is appropriate, regardless of whether the other parent participates in the court proceedings.
For advice from a child custody lawyer, or to discuss the likelihood of getting full custody, learn more about Invicta Law and our experienced Family Law practice.