For many people going through the divorce process, figuring out custody of the children is easily the most difficult part. According to Findlaw, sole custody is when one parent has legal right over the child and the child tends to live primarily with that parent.
Custody is actually broken down into two separate areas. There is legal custody, and there is physical custody. Legal custody is when a parent has the right to make decisions surrounding a child, such as medical care and education. Physical custody regards who the child is primarily living with. For instance, a common arrangement in the past was for one parent, most often the mother, to have sole physical and legal custody of any children after the divorce. The father would be non-custodial and have visitation rights.
However, sole custody is not the most common arrangement in the modern courtroom. It is far more common to end up with a co-parenting situation. In a co-parenting situation, both parents have legal and physical custody of the children on a more or less equal basis. This is so common because research has proven that co-parenting is in the best interest of the children. Given that the responsibility of the court is to make decisions in the child’s best interest, co-parenting is the most common decree.
Generally speaking, the only time that sole custody is awarded is if one parent is in some way unfit. Being unfit may involve addiction to alcohol or drugs, or it may involve a history of violence. If any of this is the case, then co-parenting would not be in the best interest of the child and the other parent will likely be awarded sole custody.