Providing a safe harbor for kids during divorce can be difficult, particularly if violence or abuse are part of the mix. Abuse can be take a variety of forms including verbal, emotional, and physical. If a child is living in a situation where there are constant fights and long term conflict, parents are not only affecting each other individually; but they are also affecting the child’s well being.
The court’s objective in deciding custody issues is to act in the best interest of the child. As mentioned by Colin, children are often not objective about what is in their best interest. While the court is interested in hearing all relevant facts regarding custody to determine what is best for the child—children are not allowed to choose where they will live after a divorce.
Custody cases often include the appointment of a guardian ad litem (GAL). A GAL is an attorney dedicated to representing the child(ren). The GAL will interview the child(ren) and factor their wishes into their recommendation to the court.
There is a persistent rumor that children at the age of 12 years old can decide where they want to go—this is false. In the state of Oregon the GAL will propose a plan to the court. If the case is complex, or serious physical or emotional issues are present, a Custody Evaluator can also be appointed to provide an in-depth analysis of the situation.
Divorce might feel like a negotiated war, and one of the biggest battles is having to confront the new reality and living situation with your child(ren). This new beginning can take some work to polish the scratched surface and make for a smooth transition into a new life with your child(ren)—but it is worth the effort.