As some may know, I am an attorney by profession. A family law attorney, specifically. So I do divorces, and child custody matters, etc. I have done this for a good many years, in different states here in the US. Currently in Arizona.
It is an unfortunate reality that there are a lot of divorce attorneys who tend to encourage acrimony and make things as adversarial as possible. They believe that to be better for their bottom line, I suppose. I'm not one of those kinds of lawyers. I would probably be a lot richer if I were. I try to facilitate settlement and resolution. That is almost always the best course of action for the parties, and always best if there are children. But settlement is not always possible, and the system we have is adversarial in nature. Collaborative divorce is out there, but it does not have much of a foothold.
Arizona has recently changed legislation to make the presumption to be joint decision-making (custody) -- both parents jointly make important decisions affecting the children. That's where you start, and then one of the parents can try and rebut that presumption and show why it would be in the best interests of the children for there to be a different decision-making arrangement. When there is joint decision-making, the parenting time schedule can be equal, but it doesn't have to be.
In our adversarial system (and here I'm speaking only of Arizona), the children do not EVER get to choose where they want to live. The wishes of the children are important, and the older the children are, the greater weight their wishes will carry. The wishes of a 12 year old will carry greater weight than the wishes of a 5 year old. But ultimately, if the parents don't agree, the judge makes the decision. Agreement between the parents is best, of course. The biggest difficulty for children in a divorce is the conflict they see between their parents. Parents going through a divorce should
attempt to minimize conflict as much as possible.
When you have been doing this as long as I have, you see similar fact patterns come up. Very often I represent the father, and the mother will often believe they should be the primary parent. Why? Because they are the mother. That's it, that's the sole reason. We litigate the case because mother will not concede that father should be as active and involved in raising the children. And until recently, the judiciary had bought into that belief -- this notion that children are better off with their mothers. Well, the truth is that sometimes they are, but sometimes they are not, and very often the children are best off with both parents, equally. Each family and situation is different.