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Should You Seek Sole Custody?

Issues surrounding children in divorce can be hotly contested. You may be wondering whether you should seek sole custody of your child or children. This this regard, there are several specific considerations to bear in mind when it comes to the question of whether you should seek sole child custody:

  • Best interests of your child
  • Abuse or neglect
  • Mental illness
  • Substance use disorder
  • Relocation
  • Abandonment
  • Incarceration
  • Residential environment issues
Understanding Legal Versus Physical (or Residential) Custody

Before diving into whether or not you should seek sole custody of your child or children, a quick review of the “two types” of New Jersey child custody is necessary. Legal custody is the right or authority to make important life decisions on behalf of a child. Significant decisions of this natural include such things as healthcare or education.

Physical or residential custody is the legal arrangement pertaining to where a child or children will primarily reside. Both types of custody can be sole or shared in some manner between parents.

Best Interests of a Child

Determinations regarding child custody and parenting time are governed by what technically is known as a “judicial standard.” Determinations made about legal and physical custody are done with an eye on what is in the best interests of a child in a particular situation.

From a legal standpoint, when you are contemplating whether you should seek sole legal or physical custody (or sole child custody across the board), your main focus should be on what you think is in the best interests of your child or children.

With regularity in New Jersey divorce cases, children become something of pawns in disputes between parents. A prime example is a situation in which a parent determines to seek sole child custody not because it is beneficial to a child but because that parent is attempting to retaliate or act against the other parent for one reason or another.

Abuse or Neglect

If the other parent has demonstrated a capacity for the abuse or neglect of your child, a compelling case is apt to be made for limitations on the contact that party will be able to have with a minor born during the marriage. This can mean that a compelling argument can be made by your sole custody. It also means that there can be restrictions placed on parenting time for a noncustodial parent with a history of abuse of neglect of a child or children. The focus will be on sole physical custody, but an argument might be able to be made for sole legal custody as well.

Mental Illness

If a parent is afflicted with a more serious type of mental illness, and if that condition is not properly remediated through treatment, sole physical and legal custody may be an appropriate custodial arrangement. Examples of the types of mental health conditions that would support a request for sole child custody include such illnesses as schizophrenia or borderline personality disorder.

Substance Use Disorder

In a similar vein, if a parent is afflicted with substance use disorder – if a parent is abusive or addicted to mind-altering substances – seeking sole custody may also be a reasonable course to take. As with mental health issues, when substance use disorder is an issue, seeking both sole legal and physical custody may be advisable.


If a parent relocates, the other parent may be able to make a reasonable argument for sole physical custody. A shared legal custody arrangement would be appropriate in many cases, despite the geographic distance.


If the other parent abandons you and your child, both sole legal and physical custody would be the advisable arrangement.


If the other parent ends up incarcerated, sole physical child custody would be necessary. Sole legal custody might also be an option, depending on the relationship between the parents and communication availability.

Residential Environment

A parent’s residential situation or environment might also dictate the necessity to seek sole child custody, particularly physical custody. This can prove to be the case when a parent’s living situation presents a threat to the best interests of a child for one reason or another.

If you’re in need of representation regarding a child custody matter, contact the Law Offices of Peter Van Aulen (201) 845-7400.

Client Reviews
Peter has integrity, and values his relationships with his clients beyond his financial relationship with them. For me to say this about any lawyer is really saying something. He is compassionate, straightforward and knowledgeable. I would easily recommend him to anybody. Lewie W.
Peter Van Aulen handled my case with great diligence and integrity. He is also a compassionate individual who realizes what a difficult time divorce can be emotionally. Peter works hard and doesn't take any shortcuts in preparing for a case… I highly recommend Mr. Van Aulen and his staff. Chuck Solomon
Peter is an exceptionally great attorney. He handled my child custody case and was able to ease any of my concerns with honest answers. He always took the time to explain the pros/cons and was always available to answer any questions that I had… I would highly recommend this attorney to anyone who is looking for one. Jessica Cruz
Peter Van Aulen is a very compassionate, honest and straightforward person. He was there for me at my lowest point with a genuine concern not only for my situation, but for me and my child's well being above all… He is fair and he is strong and when push comes to shove he is there for you. Cathy Dodge
Our cousin used Peter's law office to help with a sticky custody situation. He was extremely responsive, very nice and most importantly did an awesome job with the court! He is awesome. Lawrence Polsky

*Results may vary depending on your particular facts and legal circumstances