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When Should You Ask For Sole Physical Custody of the Children?



On Tuesday we heard the sad news that Angelina Jolie filed for divorce from Brad Pitt after twelve years together, and two years married. The papers file in Los Angeles cited “irreconcilable differences”. The surprising aspect of the filing was that Angelina requested sole physical custody in addition to joint legal custody of the children.

As a psychologically-trained divorce attorney it is unusual to see one parent asking for the sole physical custody of the children. This type of request can sometimes be considered an aggressive move. But the important question is why?

In my experience of over 35 years, often when a parent asks for sole physical custody it can suggest there is some concern regarding their spouse’s parenting skills? When parents have two different styles of parenting it can cause a lot of confusion when it comes to raising children. It can also be the result of more serious situations like irresponsible behaviors, poor judgment, substance abuse and even infidelity. For the record, infidelity is not normally justification for sole physical custody, although I did have a client who tried!

Here are the Pros and Cons of sole physical custody:


1) The children reside in one location.

2) They get to stay in the home they know and love.

3) The children can continue to go to the same schools, have the same friends, and continue their familiar routines.

4)The non-custodial parent will usually have liberal visitation if there are not more serious reasons for making different types of arrangements.


1) The children are no longer living with both parents.

2) Children tend to miss the non-custodial parent.

3)If not handled correctly, the parent who receives the sole physical custody can appear as the “better” parent to the children. The other parent may try to “buy” the children’s affection with gifts and toys.

4)If both parents don’t work together to actively schedule “get togethers” with the children, the children can lose their connection to the non-custodial parent

During our custody and parenting discussions as part of my unique “family first” mediation process, I often suggest my clients consider the following:

1) Appropriate time for the children with the other parent.

2) Explaining that the children should be allowed to express love and affection to both parties.

3) Not making derogatory comments to the children about the non-custodial parent.

I hope you find this information helpful. Custody is always a delicate issue.

If you are thinking of divorce and have questions about custody, call me.

With my many years of medical, psychological and legal training I have successfully helped families create custody arrangements that are both healthy and productive and give families and children peace of mind moving forward.

My goal, especially when it comes to children, is to encourage creative, problem-solving solutions that will be in the best interest of the children. 212.734.1551