Options for making child custody decisions

While going through a divorce, parents also face the burden of having to decide who gets custody of the kids. Although it is not a fun topic to think about or discuss, it is usually better if the parents can come to an acceptable agreement on their own. 

If unable to agree, it is the court’s decision. This is usually not the ideal method, as it can be expensive and it takes control away from the parents, but it is necessary in some situations. 


For parents who are having difficulty agreeing on custody, FindLaw discusses that mediation may be an effective method to work out differences. During the mediation process, a neutral mediator allows for each side to express their wants, works with each parent and offers solutions for a fair agreement. Parents can speak freely, as the mediator may not use anything as evidence in the event there ends up being a court trial. 

Mediation is beneficial in that it is less expensive and takes less time than a court battle. It also helps each parent communicate with each other and sets up a better path of cooperation after divorce. 


If parents cannot agree, a judge makes the decision based off numerous factors. According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, the court uses the best interests standard to decide on legal and physical custody. 

Some of the important principles the judge considers include: 

  • Ability of each parent to provide for the health, protection and safety of the child 
  • Age and needs of the child 
  • The child’s relationships with each parent, siblings and other family members 
  • Current living situation and effect on child of changing it 
  • Presence of violence or abuse in the home 

Although the judge ultimately decides based on what is best for the child, he or she may also take into consideration the wishes of the child, if mature enough to understand what is going on.