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In-Depth Look at Sole Custody Parenting Plans

Updated on January 24, 2012

Family courts are primarily concerned about determining what type of parental custody promotes the best interest of the children in a divorce. Parents who are divorcing may seek out a particular custody option but ultimately the court decides what kind of living and parenting arrangement suits the children’s needs best. 

Sole custody and joint, or shared, custody provide different advantages and drawbacks for children of divorce. Before you get too far along in your divorce proceedings, understand what sole custody encompasses and the advantages and drawbacks to this kind of custody, both for yourself and your children.

Meaningful visitations with the non-custodial parent are critical in forming parent-child relationships.
Meaningful visitations with the non-custodial parent are critical in forming parent-child relationships. | Source

Defining Sole Custody

Child custody is divided into legal and physical custody. Sole legal custody allows one parent to make the decisions pertaining to their children’s lives, specifically for religious, educational and medical issues. Joint legal custody requires both parents to agree on those decisions. Sole physical custody allows the children to live with one parent while the other parent has schedule visitations.

A sole custody parenting plan is the court-approved document that outlines all the rights and responsibilities of both parents, including a sole custody schedule that specifies when and how long the visitations occur.

Custody X Change is a highly rated software that helps parents create effective child custody agreements. You can explore countless options for your parenting plan and visitation schedule until you find the perfect one for your custody agreement.

Advantages of Sole Custody

Sole custody parenting plans can provide several advantages to you, the other parent and the children. Some of the advantages include:

  • One parent makes all relevant decisions about the children so there is no debate about disagreements.
  • A visitation schedule that provides a stable routine your children can rely on.
  • Children have a single residence they can call home, allowing them to feel more settled.
  • Minimized communication between parents, keeping conflict levels lower.
  • Parents can still participate in important activities for the children, such as sporting events and teacher conferences.
  • Children experience less pressure and anxiety from both parents telling them what to do.

Drawbacks of Sole Custody

Sole custody can have some drawbacks for the children and parents. Among the drawbacks are:

  • Time spent with both parents is fairly uneven, with the custodial parent receiving the most exposure.
  • Infrequent communication with non-custodial parent can lead to weaker relationships with children.
  • Non-custodial parent gets few opportunities for quality parenting time.
  • Non-custodial parent cannot provide valuable input in decision-making.
  • Children often feel guilty when asking to spend more time with the non-custodial parent.
  • Non-custodial parents often feel the need to pack visits with fun, expensive outings and presents in an effort to artificially bond with the children; often referred to as “Disneyland” parenting.


If your divorce ends up in a sole custody situation, make sure you and the other parent let your children know that they can love and respect both of you without guilt. The custodial parent must create a comforting home environment for the children, with a reliable routine to help them thrive. The non-custodial must do everything he or she can to help bridge the gap that happens when you live physically living from your children. With both parents working together, you can still provide a solid foundation for your children after your divorce.


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