The question of which parent will be awarded custody after a divorce is never a simple one. Each case is individual and has its own unique set of circumstances that can influence whether sole or joint custody is awarded and who the custodial parent is. Understanding the factors that go into this decision is an important step in preparing for custody negotiations or a trial.Despite what is often portrayed in the media and news reports, many divorcing couples today are able to work together to come up with a custody agreement and visitation schedule. In these situations, joint custody arrangements are most common, although one parent may be designated the residential parent for school purposes. Even in cases where one parent is awarded sole custody, the parents have a great deal of leeway to work out a lenient visitation agreement rather than relying on the state's default schedule.
If the parents cannot agree on a schedule or both want sole custody, this is where the courts have to step in. In these cases, the courts will look at which parent has been the children's primary caretaker, who has a stable household and what would be in the best interests of the children. While this offers parents a lot of room to show that they can provide a good, healthy environment for the children, it also leaves a lot of the interpretation of the situation up to the courts.
It is this room for interpretation that makes having an experienced family law attorney so important. Your attorney can help you understand how any evidence and documentation may affect your chances of being awarded custody and inform you of all of your options.
Source: Findlaw, "Custody Considerations: Step-By-Step," accessed Feb. 12, 2016