The overwhelming concern for parents going through a divorce or custody dispute is the welfare of their children. Divorce or separation can be a painful emotional process for everyone involved, including children. While certainly not pleasant, custody negotiations do not necessarily need to be contentious. On the other hand, it is important to protect children and provide a home that is best for them.
Custody is either sole or joint. A parent with sole custody is in charge of all major decisions. If there is joint custody, the parent with primary custody has decision-making authority unless otherwise negotiated. The parent whose home the children primarily go to school from is considered the parent who has primary residential custody.
It is possible, but rare, for parents to have joint custody with neither parent designated as the primary residential parent. This normally requires both parents to live in the same school district and to have the ability to agree on all major decisions.
If the parents cannot come to an agreement on where the children should reside then the court must make this decision in the best interests of the children. In contested custody disputes an attorney for the child most likely will be appointed to represent the children. It is possible that children within the same family have different desires and needs and the children themselves will have different attorneys appointed by the court to represent their interests. A child can indicate a preference regarding living arrangements. However, a child’s preference is only one factor the court will consider in making its determination, since children’s preferences may or may not be in their own best interest.