How to Win Full Custody of Your Child

Find out what full child custody means, whether it's in the best interest of your child, and what's needed to win.

Parents seeking full custody of a child during a custody battle should be prepared for what may prove to be a challenging fight. Full custody differs from joint custody in that a full custody arrangement grants legal and physical custody to one parent as opposed to both.

Before you decide to pursue full custody, it's important to know your motives. Do you want full custody to punish your child's other parent, or do you really think that they are unfit to share custody of your child? Trying to avoid having to interact with your former partner isn't an appropriate reason to seek full custody.

Family courts across the nation generally agree that joint custody is usually the best arrangement for the child. This arrangement enables the child to see both parents on a regular basis.

Unless the other parent poses a serious danger to your child and has a history that indicates a pattern of unsafe behavior, you may want to reconsider your goal to win full custody.

Read on to learn how to get full custody of a child as a mother or father and which factors courts consider when deciding about child custody.

Related: The Changing Face of the American Family

Images By Tang Ming Tung / Getty Images
Images By Tang Ming Tung / Getty Images

Getting Full Custody as a Mother or Father

Full custody is also referred to as sole custody. In a full custody arrangement, one parent is the custodial parent, while the other parent is generally granted parenting time rights as determined by the court.

A court will generally agree to grant the non-custodial parent scheduled parenting time unless it is not in the best interests of the child.

How to Get Full Custody of a Child

Follow these steps to get full custody of a child as a mother or father:

  • Consider the best interests of your child.

  • Find an attorney you can trust (if your budget allows).

  • Understand your state's laws and guidelines.

  • Establish why your child will be safer (or better off) with you.

  • Fill out the correct forms and provide the appropriate documents.

  • Pay attention to your courtroom demeanor.

  • Dress appropriately in court.

  • Be prepared and respectful to everyone at the hearing.

  • Honor the court's final decision, even if it is not in your favor.

Related: When (and How) to Modify Child Support: A Primer for Single Parents

Factors Considered for Granting Full Custody

Parents who want to win full custody should consider the following factors that courts may consider, including the best interests of the child, courtroom demeanor, courtroom dress, and preparation.

Best interests of the child

The family court usually determines that parents should share custody of a child. A parent looking to win full custody should be prepared to state clear reasons why joint custody would not serve the child's best interests.

Examples might include situations where the other parent has issues with substance misuse or a history of leaving the child home alone for extended periods.

Courtroom demeanor

A judge may determine a parent's fitness for full custody, in part, based on the parent's demeanor in court. Behaviors that may raise red flags for family court judges include:

If a parent wants to win full custody, they should avoid interrupting the proceedings, attempt to maintain their composure, and avoid angry outbursts.

Courtroom dress

During a custody battle, a court may consider the parent's style of dress as a factor in determining whether the parent will win full custody. The American Bar Association recommends the following:

  • Wearing a dark-colored suit with a light or white collared shirt

  • Avoiding bright colors

  • Sticking with conservative clothing

  • Covering tattoos and piercings

  • Styling hair and being neatly groomed

  • Keeping accessories, like jewelry, to a minimum

  • Wearing glasses instead of contacts

In general, lean toward something more professional and avoid casual clothing.


A judge will consider the level of preparation of a parent looking to win full custody. Preparation includes factors such as whether the parent has an attorney or whether they have concrete documentation to support their position for full custody.

Related: How Divorce Affects Children, Age By Age

Follow the Guidelines to Get Full Custody

You may feel it isn't fair for a court to decide full custody based on the criteria above. But since there's little you can do to change these guidelines, you should follow them accordingly to get your best shot at winning sole custody of your child.

For more information about how to win full custody, speak with a qualified attorney in your state.

Related: How to Be a Great Co-Parent Even If You Don't Get Along With Your Ex

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