Divorce can be devastating for a child of the crumbling relationship. It is important to remember that all decisions involving the child during the divorce should be made with the child's best interests in mind. A child never wants to feel in the middle of his parent's disagreement. This is exactly how the courts rule on child custody cases. The best interests of the child are taken into consideration to determine the child custody arrangement.
Oftentimes, the parents will work out an arrangement themselves when it comes to their child. Sometimes however, parents can't agree and the courts intervene to determine how custody will be shared as described in the divorce decree. Best interest of the child factors vary from state to state but generally it includes aspects such as wishes of the child, health of the parents, religious considerations and need for a stable home environment just to name a few. Another important factor is which parent was the primary caretaker of the child during the divorce -- this essentially means which parent cared directly for the child's needs more than the other parent.
Because every divorce and custody case is different, the parents can agree to an array of child custody situations or the judge can intervene and decide for them. One popular arrangement is joint custody where the child spends equal time with both parents. This arrangement is praised for its ability to lessen a child's feelings of loss after a divorce, but critics claim that it can have negative effects since the child no longer has as stable of a home environment. Split custody is not recommended, in that arrangement one parent would have custody of a child and the other parent would have custody of the other. This splits the siblings up and can have negative effects for both children.
Child custody can be a complicated arrangement but its main focus is to choose the best custody arrangement for the child in question. The wishes of the parents are not the main focus of the child custody hearing. It is always best if the parents can get together and agree on an arrangement that focuses on the child's best interests. Any judge presiding over a custody case would prefer this scenario, however if necessary they will intervene and issue a judgment in the best interests of the child.