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Is sole custody common?

One worry that many parents have when moving toward divorce is that the court will decide who gets custody of the kids: them or their spouse. They assume it’s an either/or situation and that most of the court case revolves around deciding who takes the children as if they were just property. That’s not generally how divorce proceedings go, though. 

Any instance in which just one of the parents enjoys time with their child is known as sole custody. Judges do award this type of custodial right from time to time. You might wonder how common is it for the court to award sole custody. It’s probably not nearly as common as you think. 

Sole custody has been declining since the 1980s

In reality, sole custody has been declining for decades. One study found that it was a very common practice in the 1980s, with mothers receiving sole custody in 80% of divorce cases. It may have been even more common before that. Judges only awarded sole custody in 42% of all cases in 2008. In 2021, it’s fairly uncommon for a judge to award one parent custodial rights and the other mom or dad little to none. 

What are the courts doing instead? They’re using shared custody, allowing both parents to be involved with their children. This does not always mean that both parents get their kids 50% of the time. They have to consider instead what works best for the children. The courts certainly prioritize keeping both parents involved, though. 

Are you approaching divorce?

Knowing what the courts prefer as it relates to awarding custody has very little bearing on your case. You’ll need to make a solid argument about how any parenting plan that you and your ex agree to is in your kids’ best interests to motivate them to sign off on your agreement. An attorney can aid you in crafting a parenting plan that does just that.