Determining child custody is probably one of the biggest decisions that a court has to make when dealing with divorce. There are a plethora of other things that have to be handled in divorce proceedings, but none are as paramount as who takes custody of the children. Because of the impact that this decision has on the family, and more importantly on the children, the courts utilize the "best interest of the child" standard when making this decision. This is a uniform standard that all courts in all jurisdictions follow to ensure that the children are adequately and appropriately represented in a divorce proceeding.
For a very long time, child custody decisions were slanted in favor of the mother. The commonly held belief was that the mother, naturally, was the best provider and caretaker for the child and the courts tended to go along with this societal way of thinking in most cases and give the mother custody. However, there has been a change in family dynamics as well as in the way the courts view custody decisions in divorce. Nowadays, joint custody seems to be more popular with respect to child placement in divorce. Joint custody is when both parents have physical and legal custody of the children.
Even though joint custody is a likely outcome in many child custody situations, there are a number of custody configurations at the court's disposal. For instance, there is sole custody, sole physical custody, sole legal custody, and joint custody. Any number of these can work in a divorce child custody matter, depending on the facts and circumstances of case and as it relates to the best interest of the child. The courts will do what the parties agree to in child custody as long as the child is not adversely impacted in any way.
Source: Headlines and Global News, "Joint Custody Of Children Is Becoming A Norm In US," May 22, 2014