Custody matters can make people very emotional and anxious. Parents invest a huge amount of their resources and time into raising their children. No one wants to sacrifice that relationship just because their marriage didn’t work as they intended.
Most divorcing parents in West Virginia end up sharing custody of their children. However, there are some scenarios in which one parent can obtain sole custody during a West Virginia divorce. What situations might lead to one parent having near total control over the lives of the children instead of sharing it with a child’s other parent?
One of the most common reasons for a parent to obtain sole custody in a divorce is that they reach an agreement about those arrangements with their co-parent. Someone facing medical challenges, planning to relocate or performing a highly stressful job may recognize that they do not have the time or ability to appropriately parent their children. They may agree to an arrangement in which the other parent has sole custody and they have visitation.
A history of abuse
When one parent has engaged in physical abuse or ongoing emotional abuse of the children, that can significantly alter what the courts believe would be best for the children. They will set aside the presumption that children would benefit from having both parents involved when there is evidence supporting the claim that one parent has previously abused the children. Occasionally, judges will award a parent sole custody based on spousal abuse. However, it is much less likely for the courts to diminish someone’s parenting time and authority over spousal conflict than it is for them to intervene in cases involving child abuse.
A serious risk of neglect
When one parent has unignorable personal issues, they may not be in a position to properly care for the children in the family. The West Virginia courts will look at evidence of instability when deciding how to divide custody between two adults. Someone seeking sole custody will generally need evidence of an unstable situation, serious health challenges or substance abuse to convince the courts that the children are at risk of neglect while with the other parent. Medical records, witness statements and a host of other evidence can help establish that one parent is not in a stable enough situation to have overnight visitation overnight parenting time with the children.
In most cases, documentation well beyond one parent’s claims is necessary to secure a sole custody ruling from the courts. A judge needs to agree that it would be in the best interests of the children to limit the involvement of one parent. Understanding the circumstances that may justify a request for sole custody may help people better prepare for upcoming custody negotiations or family court hearings.