As a parent, one of the things you're most worried about during a divorce is your right to child custody. You may be in a negative relationship with your spouse, and you may want to seek sole custody for the protection of your child. How does sole custody work, though, and will it really help your situation?
Sole custody is arranged when one parent receives full custody of a child. A parent who receives full custody has exclusive custody rights, both physically and legally. This is not a normal arrangement, and in many cases, it's rare to have someone receive sole custody.
The times when sole custody may be enforced is in cases where one parent is unfit to be part of the child's life, like in cases of abuse, or in cases where one is addicted to drugs or has other issues. The parent who doesn't have custody is referred to as a non-custodial parent.
Sole custody doesn't mean the other parent will never see the child. If you want to make that possible, it would have to be a special order by the court and normally would only be possible in the most extreme of conditions. In fact, visitation rights may still be given to the second parent even in cases of domestic abuse in some instances. The visits may be supervised in some situations, particularly if the child may have been abused or if there was domestic violence before the parents split up, but there are other circumstances when a parent who has not been violent or manipulative will be able to have unsupervised visits.
Source: FindLaw, "Sole Custody," accessed May 12, 2016