I suppose in some cases the answer to the question is very easy, however in most
custody cases perhaps not quite so fast and easy.
Obviously, the drug addicted, or incarcerated, or non-visiting parent,
alienating, or mentally unstable parent is easily not the "better"
parent. But what about the case in which both parents are involved with
their children, both have responsible employment, both are self-supporting
or financially stable, both are educated, and both are involved in the
At that point the line between better and worse blurs substantially because
probably both parents, but for the divorce, were or are good parents.
Are they psychologically textbook perfect, of course not since few among
us can claim to have all of the right stuff and be virtuous and always
making the right decision and doing the right thing?
In a perfect world the parents would agree to equal
parenting time so that the children can spend half their time with each parent and have
the best of both worlds. Yet somehow, these two "good" parents
can't get to that point and one parent or both believes that they
are superior or that the children will fare substantially better spending
more time with that parent.
Perhaps the decision is based upon school district, or work schedule, or
child care options, or distance between the parent's homes, or other
persons living in the home. Perhaps the decision is based upon finances,
which parent will pay or receive child support. Perhaps the decision is
based upon the age of the children and their preferences.
The result is that there is no one size fits all formula that addresses
every nuance and shading of issues that arise in custody disputes. It
is often quite difficult to predict the result when both parents appear
to be good parents. I have heard some lawyers say that good parents would
never put their children through a
custody dispute although that too is an oversimplification of the problem. It is also
well known that a custody trial will damage the relationship of the parents
with each other and the children.
Testimony that comes out in the courtroom, accusations, second guessing
decisions from years ago, aspersions on the other person's family
can never be taken back and so the earth is scorched.
Therefore, think long and hard before you decide to go the distance in
a custody dispute. Try to find a way to create a schedule that meets the
needs of both parents and children. Be flexible with the schedule as it
must be fluid to accommodate the needs of children who get older and parents
whose lives will change as well.