When one parent refuses to or is incapable of co-parenting with the other parent, it could be grounds for sole custody. Both parents are expected to communicate and cooperate with each other to make decisions for their child without allowing their personal conflicts with one another get in the way.
What is Sole Custody?
With joint custody, both parents are supposed to jointly make major decisions for their children. This generally includes decisions regarding their children’s education, health, and well-being. Both parents have full decision making authority and responsibility for the children. The children might primarily live with one parent or spend almost equal amounts of time with each parent.
However, when one parent is granted sole custody, that parent maintains both physical and legal custody of the children. He or she is legally able to unilaterally make all the important decisions in his or her children’s lives. The non-custodial parent will usually maintain the right to have parenting time. He or she may also retain the right to receive information pertaining to the children’s education, health, and welfare.
Communication is Key
The fitness of both parents does not always mean that joint custody is appropriate in all cases. When considering whether sole custody should take precedence over joint custody in a custody hearing, the Court will examine issues of communication between the parents, This could include any historical communication between the parents and whether it has been appropriate and civil.
The inability to communicate with one another in a civil manner is counterproductive to effective co-parenting. The Court will consider additional factors, such as:
- Not ordering joint custody in an effort to improve communications between both
- The age of the children involved
- One parent professing that they are unable to communicate with the other
- Whether the parents would be able to address unexpected situations that are not detailed in the custody order when they arise
- Failure of one parent to abide by the parenting agreement without the permission of the court, including altering the visitation schedule
The Court may also flag parents as “high conflict” if they are unable to agree on anything or are angry and hostile to one another. Parents who cannot effectively co-parent may be referred to a parenting coordinator to resolve issues before resorting to awarding sole custody to one parent.