How Do I Get Full Custody of my Child in California? What Matters to the Court?

By  //  July 21, 2022

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It’s not easy to be a single parent, and the difficulties of raising a child alone can make it seem like an impossible dream to get full custody of your child. Fortunately, the choice of full child custody is accessible when you opt for one of the top child custody lawyers.

In California, there are two types of custody: sole legal custody and joint legal custody. Sole physical custody allows one parent to have both visitation time and decision-making power in terms of what happens with the child.

Joint physical is similar but would require a judge’s approval for major decisions. Joint legal custody, also known as co-parenting, allows a parent who is not the child’s biological or adoptive parent to make decisions and have input on what happens with the child and all of the other decisions and actions that affect the child.

In many cases, full joint legal custody works best for both parents. These parents have developed a strong relationship in which they care about each other enough to work out a parenting agreement that recognizes their relationship and respects their opinions about what is important for their child.

Joint legal custody means that parents have equal standing under the law. The court will give serious weight to a parenting plan they feel promotes the best interests of the child. A co-parenting arrangement can show the court that both parents understand the needs of their child and cherish them enough to put aside other interests, like their own personal life, and instead focus on providing for their child’s needs.

A parent requesting full custody in California must have persuasive evidence: 

The rights and interests of the non-custodial parent outweigh any rights and interests of the custodial parent. The ability of the non-custodial parent to protect the child from harm is greater in a less restrictive environment. The court will award joint legal custody if it feels that both parents have worked together to ensure their child’s needs are being met.

They also look at what benefits there are for each parent, whether it be for time or money, in getting joint custody. California gives the court the ability to make custody decisions. The courts first look at what is in the best interest of the child. Then, it looks for factors that might be detrimental to a child with one parent and factors that might benefit him or her with another parent.

Judges also consider cultural factors, such as extended family ties, religious values and traditions, and issues of race and ethnicity in determining what custody arrangements are most suitable.

A parent opposing a full custody request must not take the request lightly:

All parties involved should understand that full custody only applies if one parent has sole decision-making authority and the other has no day-to-day custodial responsibilities. The court recognizes that a child benefits from increased interaction with both parents, so they will not terminate parental rights, except in cases of extreme neglect, abuse, or abandonment.

The process for obtaining full joint legal custody can be difficult and lengthy. The child’s best interests are the most important concern, and the person requesting full custody must have strong evidence to show it. A court might require that parents attend counseling sessions, possibly regularly, to work out their differences. The court typically wants both parents to work together in an effort to reach a solution that will be in the best interests of the child.

What evidence will the court need to rule on a full custody request?

In some situations, the court might make a custody decision based on the desires of just one parent. In these cases, the law recognizes that proving child abandonment in California requires maintaining a relationship with both parents. The decision-making powers will remain with the parent who has legal custody, and she or he will be allowed to make decisions about how that child spends time with their other parent. If a child is at risk of being harmed or greatly harmed by one parent, the court will decide based on what it feels is in the best interest of that child.

What about the issue of child abuse and full custody requests?

A parent’s request for full custody can be made if the other parent has abused or neglected the child. The court takes these requests very seriously and will give each parent a chance to explain their side of the story. The judge must consider all factors, including the seriousness of the incident and what kind of effect it had on the other parent’s ability to care for, protect, and support their children. If abuse is proven, both parents should attend counseling sessions with a licensed therapist.

The objective is to work out your differences and get on the same page regarding taking care of your child and developing a custody agreement. The victim of the abuse should remain involved in their child’s life as much as possible. However, if there is evidence that the abused parent continues abusing the child, additional assistance may be needed to protect that child from further harm. It is important for parents who are fighting over the custody of their children to understand their rights under the law.


Understanding the state laws and court rulings before going to court to fight over custody of your children is critical so that you are prepared and know what to expect. It is important to understand the family law surrounding joint legal custody and how they may affect your case regarding protecting your children, love, respect, and stability.