If you’re involved in a custody battle with your ex, you may be going for full custody. However, trying to win full custody of your child may be an uphill battle in some cases. 

Before you begin your fight for full custody of your child, it’s important to consider your motives. For example, you should ask yourself if you’re going after full custody to get back at your ex, or if you really believe your ex shouldn’t be able to share custody of your child.

If your ex has done something you disagree with or hurt you in the past, this is generally not a valid motive to gain full custody of your child. In fact, you could end up hurting your child in the long run. So, before going into court to try to win full custody of your child, make sure you have a good reason. 

What is Full Custody?

Full custody is sometimes referred to as sole custody. If you have full custody, this means that you are the custodial parent, and the other parent has visitation rights determined by the court. 

Unless the court determines that your ex having visitation rights isn’t in the best interest of the child, your ex will be allowed to see your child, and the court may give your ex extremely generous visitation rights at its discretion.

What Factors are Considered to Win Full Custody?

If you want to win full custody of your child, you should take under consideration the following factors that may work in your favor in court. 

  1. Courtroom Behavior: In some cases, the judge may base part of his decision on how you behave in court. You should avoid interrupting, maintain your composure, and avoid any angry outbursts while in the courthouse.
  2. Dress Properly: You should wear a dark suit and avoid any type of casual clothing.
  3. Best Interest of Your Child: This is the most important factor that the court will consider when determining custody. You should be prepared to state clear and convincing reasons why joint custody wouldn’t be in the best interest of your child. 
  4. Be Prepared: A judge may consider how prepared you are in court when determining custody. This includes such things as whether you have an attorney, or you have documentation that supports you deserving full custody. 

What are the Reasons Full Custody is Granted?

In some cases, there could be factors or circumstances that will lead the judge into granting you full custody. This normally will happen if your ex is guilty of one or more of the following:

  1. Physical Abuse
  2. Emotional/Mental Abuse
  3. Alcohol and/or Drug Addiction
  4. Conviction of a Serious Crime such as murder

What is Sole Custody vs. Joint Custody?

In order to obtain full custody, you have to employ certain strategies. However, before you can get full custody, you should fully understand what sole custody is.

  1. Sole Physical Custody: This is when your child lives primarily with one parent, while the other parent has liberal visitation rights.
  2. Sole Legal Custody: This is where either you or your ex-spouse has the authority to make decisions for your child about such things as medical care, education, and religion. 
  3. Both Sole and Physical Custody: While very rare, it’s possible that you or your ex may be granted both sole legal and physical custody.
  4. Mixed: In some cases, one of you may have sole physical custody of your child, but both of you have joint legal custody that requires you and your ex to come to an agreement. 

What is in the Best Interest of the Child?

In general, family courts around the country agree that joint custody is in the best interest of the child. In this arrangement, the child can see both you and your ex on a regular basis. Unless your ex is a serious danger to your child and has a history of unsafe behavior, you may want to question your motives for seeking full custody of your child. 

How to Get Full Custody of Your Child

The first step to obtaining full custody of your child is to file the appropriate papers in court. It’s best if your ex agrees to this arrangement, or you’re going to have an expensive fight on your hands. 

Certain factors come into play when you are seeking full custody of your child. They include:

  1. That sole custody is in the best interest of your child.
  2. Joint custody wouldn’t work because you and your ex can’t get along.
  3. Your ex is unable to adequately supervise or raise your child.
  4. Your ex has neglected, abandoned, or abused your child.
  5. You have a more flexible work schedule than your ex, or can take care of your child more often than your ex.
  6. You have a protective or restraining order against your ex and your ex is a threat to your child.
  7. Your child is old enough to voice their preference, and the state in which you reside allows your child to have a say in where they want to live.
  8. Your child has special needs that you are better equipped to handle.
  9. Your child is more bonded to you.
  10. You are the primary caregiver for your child and your ex has only minimum involvement with your child’s upbringing.
  11. You are a better parent in regard to helping your child’s success in their education.
  12. You are more financially stable than your ex.
  13. You have a more stable home environment than your ex. 
  14. Your ex has issues such as a history of domestic violence, alcohol and/or drug abuse, or serious mental health issues that interfere with raising your child.

What is the Better Parent Standard?

You may be going for full custody of your child because you believe your ex is unfit to raise your child. However, if you are trying to win full custody of your child, you need to realize that there is a high burden of proof for you.

In order to award custody, the court must establish that one parent is the “better parent.” In many cases, this is hard to do. 

Additionally, many judges are reluctant to prevent either you or your ex from having a relationship with your child because the implication is that both parents, working together, are best able to raise their child. 

As a result, if you are seeking full custody, you have to prove that you are best able to care for your child without the assistance of your child’s other parent. 

How Do I Present Myself to Get Full Custody?

There are many dos and don’ts when it comes to how you present yourself to the court in order to help you win your child custody case. They include:

  1. Willingness to Work with Your Ex: There have been cases where a parent has lost custody of their child because of their unwillingness to work with their ex. So, remember that while you may not like your ex, they are a part of your child’s life, and you need to be able to show the court that you are willing to work together for what is in the best interest of your child. 
  2. Exercise Your Parental Rights: If you have been given visitation rights with your child, take full advantage of them. Spend as much time with your child as possible and make sure you are encouraging regular things such as homework and chores.
  3. Prepare Documentation: If you honestly believe that your child is unsafe with your ex, you should document your interactions with your ex, as well as your ex’s interactions with your child. You should be aware that your ex may be doing the same thing to you and preparing documentation to show the court as well.
  4. Don’t Talk About Your Ex in a Negative Way to Your Child: Keep your opinions and feelings about your ex to yourself when your child is present.
  5. Hire A Child Custody Attorney: If you don’t believe you can afford an attorney, set up a free consultation to discuss any options you have. You can also look at free legal clinics or contact your local bar association for assistance.
  6. Don’t Be Late or Reschedule Visits: Little things like showing up late, or constantly rescheduling your visits with your child, all add up to a negative impression of your commitment to your child.
  7. Don’t Refuse to Do Anything the Court Asks: In order to show the court how committed you are, you should do what the court asks. This could include taking parenting classes or seeking counseling. If this is the case, do it immediately. 
  8. Don’t Involve Your Child in Your Custody Battle:  While it may be tempting to share the details of your case with your child, don’t do it. It’s more important to just let them be kids and keep adult issues off their shoulders.


It’s important to remember that the court is almost always going to do what they believe is in the best interest of your child before they award you sole or full custody. If sole and/or full custody isn’t in the best interest of your child in the court’s view, you may have to settle for joint custody.