Can a Father Be Awarded Full Custody?

By Law Office of Karen S. Brown

For so much of American history, mothers have been the primary caregivers for their children. They stayed at home and devoted more time to raising children than fathers. As a result, it was thought common—in fact, virtually a foregone conclusion—that mothers would be awarded primary custody of their children in the event of divorce.

Times have changed. Mother and fathers often both work outside the home and share child-rearing duties more equally. For these reasons and more, California law does not consider the gender of a parent in awarding custody. However, “full custody” is a decision the court will not take without significant consideration.

Child custody issues are emotional by nature and can be contentious. But these issues can also be resolved. No one knows that better than attorney Karen S. Brown, who has represented hundreds of fathers and mothers in child custody matters in Los Angeles County, California, as well as Beverly Hills, Brentwood, Encino, Hancock Park, Long Beach, and the rest of Southern California.

Fathers have the same custody rights as mothers in California, but the fight for them can pose unique challenges. Reach out to a child custody attorney at Law Office of Karen S. Brown when you’re ready to get started.

What Issues Affect Fathers’ Right to Custody in California?

To understand some of the challenges involved with fathers’ rights to custody in California, you need to understand not only the law but presumptions inherent in the law.

For example, a child born to a married couple or a couple in a domestic partnership is presumed to be the child of the mother and the father in that relationship. The woman who gives birth to a child is naturally presumed to be the mother and in the absence of an admission of paternity, the mother has sole legal and sole physical custody of that child.

The father of a child born during a marriage, of course, can be someone outside that marriage. In that case, and in the case of a single woman bearing a child without admission of paternity, paternity will need to be established by either parent. A mother may want to establish paternity to be granted child support. A father establishing paternity may do so to have a relationship with the child, including vying for child custody and visitation rights.

The court does not place a priority on either the maternal rights or the paternal rights but rather on issuing custody decisions based on what a judge believes serves the best interests of the child. Factors considered in those deliberations include but are not limited to:

  • the child’s relationship with each parent;

  • each parent’s income, health, and stability;

  • each parent’s willingness to encourage a relationship with the other parent as supported by the parenting plan;

  • any history of substance abuse or violence;

  • other issues that could affect the welfare of the child in either a positive or negative way.

Is an Award of Full Custody Even Possible?

In most cases, the court believes it is in the best interest of children to have active relationships with both parents. Therefore, most custody agreements award joint legal and joint physical custody, although the parent with whom the children reside most is deemed to have primary custody.

A parent awarded full custody is awarded sole physical and sole legal custody. Although the court believes that in general, preserving the relationship between children and both parents is in the children’s best interest, it will not do so if a parent poses a risk to the health, safety, and wellbeing of a child.

Full custody is possible if there is an allegation by one parent that the other is unfit because of mental illness, child abuse or neglect, substance abuse, or domestic abuse. Allegations must be proven by the accusing parent, and the accused parent has the right to present evidence that rebuts that evidence.

A documented history of abuse against the other parent, children, or other family members may lead the court to deny joint custody. Allegations of substance abuse must prove that the abuse compromises the safety of the children. If there is enough evidence, the court may order alcohol and blood testing. Moreover, a mental illness might exclude a parent from being awarded joint custody.

Short of awarding full custody to one parent, the court could control potential exposure by limitations on parenting plans, and even by requiring supervised visitation. Keep in mind that if a parent is not awarded any custody rights based on such issues, that parent could petition the court for review if they can prove improvement in their mental health or cessation of substance abuse.

How Can an Attorney Help Me in A Custody Battle?

Whether you are a father wanting to pursue full custody of your child or a mother wanting to fight it, working with an experienced family law attorney offers you your best chance. Your attorney knows how high the bar is set to exclude a parent from joint custody, and what it takes to prove or rebut allegations that qualify for exclusion.

Turn to Karen S. Brown for Trusted Guidance

Parents have trusted Karen S. Brown’s legal guidance in family law issues for more than 45 years. During that time, she has dealt with incredibly complex custody cases. Her compassion for parents wanting to do the best for their children is equaled by her passion for the law.

If you are facing a child custody issue in Los Angeles County, California, or the surrounding area, reach out to Law Office of Karen S. Brown today.