Divorce and separation are never easy. These processes are more complicated when there is a child involved. In the case of divorce, one question that must be answered is who will get custody of the child. 

Generally, courts favor the child continuing a relationship with both parents. However, there are some cases where one parent should be granted full custody. If you are the father of the child, it may be possible for you to get full custody.


Types of Custody

Before seeking full custody of a child, you should first know what types of custody exist. In California, there are two types of custody – legal and physical. Each type of custody can be shared or one parent can have sole custody. It is also possible for parents to share one form of custody but for one parent to have primary custody of the other type.  

Legal Custody

Having legal custody means that you have the right to make major decisions about the child. These types of decisions include any that relate to school, childcare, religion, medical care, health decisions, travel, and extracurricular activities.

This type of custody can be either joint or sole. If it is joint, then both parents must agree on any major decisions involving the child. If a parent has sole legal custody, they can make these decisions without the input of the other parent.

Physical Custody

Physical custody means having the child physically reside with you. This can also be joint or sole. If the physical custody is joint, it does not mean that the child has to live 50% of their time with one parent and 50% with the other.

It is usually too complicated to have a child split even time evenly, so they end up staying with one parent a bit more than the other. If one parent has sole custody, also called primary custody, the child will primarily live with that parent. Usually, the other parent will be granted some form of visitation. 

Can a Father Get Full Custody of His Child?

In California, a judge is not allowed to take into account the gender of the parent when making custody decisions. Therefore, it is possible for a father to get full custody of a child. All court decisions regarding child custody are made using the best interest of the child standard.

The court will follow two policies to determine the best interest of the child.

First, the health, welfare, and safety of the child has to be the court’s main concern.

Second, the child will benefit from having contact with both parents. This means that whenever possible, a court will try to have the child remain in contact with both parents though the custody agreement.

How to Get Full Custody as a Father

At the beginning of each case, both parents will begin on equal ground. It will be up to the father to show that getting full custody is what is in the best interest of the child.

In court, several factors will be examined. If a father wants full custody, he will need to focus on each of these elements and show how giving them full custody is in the child’s best interest.


It is always best for the child to have stability in their life. A judge will prefer to have the child maintain a lifestyle that closest to the one they had before the parents split up. This includes maintaining schedules, going to the same schools, and protecting bonds with whoever was the primary caretaker in the relationship.

Health and Safety

One main goal of determining custody is making sure that the child is safe. If one parent cannot provide a safe environment, the other parent has a better chance of getting full custody.

For example, if the mother has an addiction problem or leads a dangerous lifestyle, it is in the best interest of the child that the father gets full custody. Abuse, past convictions, and drug problems are all things that could limit how much custody a court would give the mother.  

Child’s Wishes

If the child is old enough to make a sound judgment or decision, the court will take into account their wishes. A father may be able to get full custody if the child expresses their wish to live with the father because they have a stronger relationship with him.

Be wary of parental alienation. This is when one parent purposefully tries to negatively sway the child’s impression of the other parent by telling them lies, asking them to spy on the other parent, or only speaking negatively about them. If this is shown in court, the judge is likely to side with the victimized parent on custody decisions.


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