Understanding Sole Legal Custody: What You Need to Know

August 4, 2023

Sole Legal CustodyLegal custody is a term often used in family law, specifically in child custody cases. It refers to the legal authority to make decisions on behalf of a child. Sole legal custody, on the other hand, means that this authority is granted to only one parent. 

Our Johnson Law Group article aims to provide detailed information about sole legal custody in the Denver area. It will cover the factors that courts consider when awarding custody. It will also discuss the potential benefits and drawbacks of sole legal custody.

What is Sole Legal Custody?


  • Sole legal custody refers to one parent having the exclusive right and responsibility to make decisions about the child's welfare.
  • These decisions may include aspects such as education, healthcare, religion, and other important life choices.
  • The parent with sole legal custody has the final say in these matters, even if the other parent disagrees.

Is Sole Custody Full Custody?

No, sole custody is not the same as full custody. Sole custody refers to one parent having the exclusive right and responsibility to make decisions about the child's welfare, including aspects such as education, healthcare, religion, and other important life choices. The parent with sole custody has the final say in these matters, even if the other parent disagrees. However, full custody typically refers to a situation where one parent has both legal custody and physical custody of the child. So, while sole custody grants decision-making rights, full custody encompasses both decision-making and physical custody.

Legal Custody vs. Physical Custody

  • Legal custody should not be confused with physical custody.
  • Legal custody pertains to decision-making rights, while physical custody relates to where the child lives.
  • It is possible for a parent to have sole legal custody but share physical custody with the other parent.

Important steps to file for sole custody in Denver, Colorado:

  1. Determine if sole custody is in the best interests of your child. The court will only grant sole custody if it believes that it is in the best interests of the child. Consider factors such as the child's age, health, temperament, and relationship with each parent.
  2. Gather evidence to support your case. This could include things like medical records, school reports, and letters from friends, family, or teachers.
  3. Hire an attorney. An attorney can help you navigate the legal process and represent you in court.
  4. File the necessary paperwork. You will need to file a Petition for Allocation of Parental Responsibilities and serve it on the other parent.
  5. Attend the Initial Status Conference (ISC). This is a hearing where the judge will review your case and set a schedule for further proceedings.
  6. Negotiate a parenting plan with the other parent. If you can agree on a parenting plan, you can submit it to the court for approval. If you cannot agree, the case will go to trial.
  7. Attend the trial. The judge will hear evidence from both sides and decide whether to grant you sole custody.

It is important to note that these are just some of the important steps involved in filing for sole custody in Denver, Colorado. The specific process may vary depending on your individual circumstances. You should consult with an attorney to get specific advice on your case.

Factors Considered by Colorado Courts in Awarding Sole Custody

  • The child's best interest is always the paramount consideration in any custody decision.
  • The court may consider factors like the parents' mental and physical health, the child's age and preferences, the parents' ability to provide a stable environment, and history of abuse or neglect.
  • If one parent has been largely uninvolved in the child's life, or if there is a significant level of conflict between the parents, the court may be more likely to award sole custody.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Sole Custody


  • Sole custody can provide stability and consistency for the child, as decisions are made by one parent without the need for negotiation or compromise.
  • It can also be beneficial in situations where one parent is unable or unfit to make sound decisions for the child.


  • Conversely, sole legal custody can create a power imbalance between the parents.
  • It may also leave the noncustodial parent feeling marginalized or excluded from the child's life.
  • The child may also feel the impact of having one parent largely absent from major decision-making processes.

The decision to award sole legal custody is complex, with many factors to consider. It is always advisable to consult with an experienced family law attorney to understand the implications and potential outcomes of a sole legal custody case.

Contact Johnson Law Group Custody Attorneys

The best way to ensure that your sole custody rights are represented and the best outcome is achieved for your family is to work with our experienced Denver sole custody attorneys. Our Johnson Law Group Attorneys can help you understand your rights and the potential outcomes of the court’s decision. They will also help you build a strong case supporting your position and ensure the best possible outcome for your family. Call or text 720-445-4444 or click here to schedule your initial consultation.

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Written by Family Law Attorney Myles S. Johnson
Divorce doesn’t have to be dramatic. For the litigants, losing your spouse is significant enough. But you can choose the way it affects your daily life. The only guarantee I can give is that the feeling that you have right now will not be the feeling you end with. This is a season in your life, and it must be approached that way.
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