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What Is Full Custody?

A parent who receives full custody of a child has full authority over decisions regarding the child.
Grandparents may petition for full custody of a child.
Full custody does not place the entire financial burden of child-rearing upon one individual.
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  • Written By: Felicia Dye
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 26 July 2014
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Full custody is a term generally used to refer to the guardianship of children. Custody can often be divided into two categories. First, there is physical custody, which determines which parent a child will live with. Then, there is legal custody, which determines who will make decisions regarding the child. When a person has full physical or legal custody, she has complete authority regarding those matters.

A person with full custody is granted all of the rights regarding a certain aspect of a child’s life. If a parent has full physical custody, then the child will live with that person. That person can generally decide where to live with the child without interference from the other parent. In many instances, however, the choice of where to live must accommodate any court ordered visitation.

When a person has full legal custody, this generally means that she has full authority over decisions regarding a child. Full legal custody generally grants a person the liberty to make decisions such as which school a child will go to, which extracurricular activities the child will be allowed or forbidden to participate in, and which health care providers will attend to the child. It is possible that a person can have full custody in one area but be bound by other custody arrangements in the other area.

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Full custody is usually granted to one person instead of another for a reason. While many people mistakenly believe that such decisions are based on factors such as income or standard of living, this is not generally true. Usually, a parent is denied custody when there is an issue that deems him unfit, such as a psychological disorder or a history of substance abuse. If there are no reasons upon which the court can base such a decision, then it is likely that parents will share custody.

Although full custody usually involves the child living with one parent and grants that parent the decision making powers, there are two common misconceptions that people have regarding such guardianship arrangements. First, it does not generally grant the custody holder the right to eliminate contact between a child and the non-custodial parent. In many instances, terms of contact and visitation will be determined by the court.

Second, full custody does not place the entire financial burden of child-rearing upon one individual. A non-custodial parent is usually still liable for child support. The amount to be paid may be determined by a court or by a child support agency. Child support and visitation, when ordered by proper authorities, are not optional despite the terms of custody.

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Discuss this Article

cloudel
Post 4

@StarJo - I think either option will be hurtful. I also think that the children should have a say in who they want to live with, if they are forced to live with one or the other.

My mother tried to get full custody of me after she and my father split, but the judge wouldn’t grant it to her. She had been on antidepressants and had been seeing a therapist for a mental disorder, so he awarded full custody to my father.

This tore me up, because I really wanted to live with my mother. I actually think that I would have preferred they share custody of me, because then, I would have gotten to stay with her for longer periods of time.

StarJo
Post 3

My sister is currently going through a divorce, and we have been going back in forth in a discussion about full custody vs. joint custody. I think that joint custody is better, because it allows the children to spend ample time with both parents. My sister wants full custody, because she doesn’t want the kids being bounced back and forth between parents.

She thinks that it will confuse and sadden them to be sent to and fro like that. She says that they need one home that actually feels like home so that they will have some stability in their lives.

I say that their stability has already been upset, and things will never be okay for them in this area. Their parents are divorcing, and they don’t need to be forced to spend more time with one than the other.

Can I get some other opinions on this issue? I would like to hear from people who have grown up in either situation.

lighth0se33
Post 2

@shell4life - I’m sure that every custody case is unique, but it is possible. My friend lived with her mother most of the time, but her father got to say where she would go to school and whether she could participate in sports or not.

Even though her mother had full custody, her dad had visitation rights and legal custody. It was a compromise between them to make the process go more quickly. Her mother just didn’t want to lose her, so she thought that living with her would be better than having full legal custody rights.

Oh, they butted heads quite a bit, but I think it was best for my friend and her mother that they got to live together. My friend wasn’t close with her dad at all, and even though she hated obeying his decisions, she went along with it to avoid trouble.

shell4life
Post 1

I thought that having full custody meant that the child lived with you. I had never heard of full legal custody before. That sounds complicated and strange.

It would seem like whoever had the child with them most of the time should get to decide major things about the kid’s life. A person who only sees the kid on the weekends would not know as much about the child and might miss out on some important information regarding medical conditions or psychological issues.

So, it’s possible for the father to have full custody and the mother to make all the big life decisions for the child, or vice versa? That just sounds messed up, in my opinion.

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