Family Code §3007 defines sole physical custody as being that a child shall reside with and be under the supervision of one parent, subject to the power of the court to order visitation.
In other words, sole physical custody means that your child lives primarily with one parent. This is usually the residence where the child’s school attendance will be based on. That parent will be the custodial parent. The other parent has visitation time with the child and is called the non-custodial parent.
The alternative to sole physical custody is joint physical custody. Primary physical custody is not a legal term under the Family Law Code
The Court may order sole physical custody when:
The parties agree that sole custody is in the child's best interest.
Parents live far away from each other
A parent has problems with substance abuse or is unstable.
The visitation schedule gives one parent the majority of the time.
A parent has a history of abuse or neglect towards the child.
A parent has been absent from a child's life.
The noncustodial parent will normally have a visitation schedule that determines the time the child will be in their care. This schedule protects both parties, where the custodial parent is insured that the child will be returned and the noncustodial parent will have the assurance that they will have scheduled time with the child. Some common sole custody visitation schedules include but are not limited to:
every weekend schedule where the child spends every weekend with the noncustodial parent.The
alternating weekends schedule where the child spends every other weekend with the noncustodial parent.
1st, 3rd, and 5th weekends schedule where the weekends are assigned to the noncustodial parent
2nd, 4th, and 5th weekends schedule where the weekends are assigned to the noncustodial parent.
.The week-on, week off schedule where the parties alternate weeks with the child.
You can add midweek visits or overnights to any of these schedules to modify them to fit your needs.
Many states have laws that prefer joint custody over sole custody. Courts in these states will order joint custody as the default unless a parent can prove that sole custody is in the best interest of the child. Joint custody does not mean that both parents get equal parenting time with the child.
If you want sole custody because you want your child to live primarily with you, you may still be able to have the living arrangements you want with joint custody.
Pros of sole physical custody include:
The child has a home base that is beneficial for school registration and attendance.
A schedule can be set up that is stable and predictable.
The noncustodial parent can be granted liberal visitation with the child.
Less exchanges can be easier for parents who live far away from each other or who have very busy work schedules.
Rebuttable presumption that the parent with sole physical custody can move away with the child.
Cons of sole physical custody include:
The children don't spend equal time living with both parents.
The noncustodial parent may not get enough time with the child and their relationship may suffer.
If a parent thinks the custody schedule is unfair, the parents may spend a lot of time in court fighting over the custody situation.