The primary concern of the court in custody decisions is the best interest of the child. Ideally, parents will be able to agree, before going to court, what that means in their unique situation. Not having to withstand a protracted court battle over the question of custody will help to greatly diminish the stress the child experiences during a divorce proceeding and after.
Ultimately, though, the court will have the final say on questions of custody. Barring compelling reasons to limit one parent’s involvement in the child’s life, courts typically will call for the parents to share child-rearing responsibilities under what is called a Joint Managing Conservatorship arrangement. As the name implies, under JMC the parents share the majority of rights and responsibilities of raising the child. It does not guarantee, however, that the parents will also have equal time of possession. The court will still usually award a primary physical residence for the child, with the other parent receiving appropriate visitation.