Why sole custody won’t make you happy


A few weeks ago, I asked the moms in my German Brave Moms’ Club a coaching question whose answers really surprised me.

As a coach, I always have a certain expectation, but I really didn’t expect this.

The question was:

“If you knew that 100% of the time everything was going to go well – what courageous task would you tackle?”

I had probably expected “to start my own business” and “to meet new men more unbiasedly” or even “to make a larger investment, such as buying a house or an apartment”.

These points were also mentioned, but the overwhelming biggest tenor was:

“I would seek sole custody.”

And I was like: What?

Well, of course it’s easier when you have sole custody in parenthood with a toxic narcissistic ex-partner

You can then simply decide things in the life of the child freely, without hanging on the control leash of the energy-sucking ex, when it comes to Kiga or school issues or even medical care.

After all, sharing joint custody with a father who has made it his business to jeopardize the livelihood of his child’s mother is no fun.

Those of us who have a toddler and want to return to the office with more hours know from bitter experience what it means to need your signature by a certain deadline, because otherwise the neighborhood  preschool will run out of available slots.

Oh, and toxic men enjoy that very much – they have the power! And they use it to the hilt – until the deadline passes and the mother then has to move heaven and hell to have the signature replaced by the judge if necessary.

So unnecessary!

Ultimately, such fathers do themselves no favors at all if they stand out in court with such antics early on.

But no matter.

The main thing is that first a lot of excitement, drama and anger have arisen!

Yes, sole custody does have its appeal, I admit it!

BUT – it’s also not the holy grail of absolute happiness in your toxic parenting relationship.


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Therefore, you don’t need to keep biting yourself in the butt because you were so naive at the time to voluntarily and officially declare joint custody right after the birth. Because you would not have needed to do so, because you were not married.

A small digression at this point: If parents are married and have a child together, both parents automatically have joint custody and retain it even after separation.

If parents are unmarried and have a child together, the mother has sole custody of the child.

Quite a few of us unmarried mothers with a toxic ex nevertheless voluntarily declared joint custody in the office after the birth – also to send a signal that they see in the father of their child a partner in the future upbringing.

In hindsight, one is always wiser…

Still, nothing to be ashamed of, sweetheart! I did that too at the time and later just thought shaking my head “How could I?!”

In any case, if your toxic ex is up to it and goes to court and demands joint custody, it is already the case that the courts are happy to grant it even against the will of the child’s mother, provided there are no serious reasons to the contrary.

On the other hand: I know a number of mothers with a toxic ex-partner who have successfully won sole custody (ASR) in court – even after years of joint custody!

Please keep in mind: each case is different, the dynamic factors are indeed very dynamic for the individual mother.

It is therefore important to always take a critical view of blanket statements. Before you run straight to court and file an application, please be sure to consult with your legal counsel!

When I realized at some point in my own parental relationship with the toxic ex what a capital screw-up I had made with the joint custody declaration, I consoled myself with exactly this: he would have gotten it anyway if he had gone to court.

Today, I tell moms with a toxic ex: let him go to court first and don’t go into anticipatory obedience by making it too easy for him!

Yes, you may well lose – or not, depending on your situation.

Having sole custody – especially in the beginning with my baby or toddler or a child who needs extensive medical care – is worth its weight in gold and saves some sleepless nights.

This is worth fighting for.

Do you want to feel confident about managing child hand-offs with your toxic ex?


Still, choose your battles wisely

Sole custody does not solve a very basic problem you have with a toxic narcissistic ex-partner.

Namely, how to deal with him.

Even with sole custody, you cannot determine how often your child’s father has contact, because these two rights – custody and contact – are separate.

If, in your heart of hearts, you never want to see this guy again, then sole custody will not help you. He will – regardless of whether you live the residential model or the alternating model – stand in front of your door with small children and pick them up and bring them back again.

If you want to prevent the toxic child father from manipulating the child beyond measure, sole custody will not help you with this. He will always find an opportunity to manipulate your child, regardless of whether it’s a residential or alternating model.

It doesn’t matter if he has 3 or 10 or 50 hours of contact a week – he can lie or rail against you at any time.

You will continue to have to deal with his unreliability, and depending on how toxic your ex is on it, very likely continue to worry and maybe even keep your fear of him.

The toxic narcissistic ex is your LEARNING CHALLENGE that you face in this phase of your life and that you can no longer avoid now

This is not limited to how you best appear in court, even if you “may” practice this two, three, or even ten times.

The task is for you to learn how best to deal with toxic people who are just so not doing what YOU (and common sense) think is best. 

Because if it’s not your toxic ex, it’s your toxic boss or toxic neighbor.

There are toxic people everywhere – just as there are normal, mentally healthy(er) people everywhere.

So when you learn,

  • how you no longer take actions of these people personally (even when these people are trying to);
  • How to give yourself the love and respect and appreciation that others withhold from you;
  • How to build an inner, unshakable knowledge of who you really are – minus all the opinions of others, including your own mother;
  • How you can set an example and accompany your child through this turbulent childhood safely and confidently;

then you have mastered this greatest of all life tasks and feel how little important the sole or joint custody, the lived contact or the last mean email of the toxic ex really are all of a sudden.

It just doesn’t affect you anymore.

If this is exactly what you want, then let’s practice this attitude together! Wonder if one-on-one coaching makes sense? Book a session with me and let’s explore whether it would be a good fit.

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