When parents separate, the issue of child custody arises. In some cases these custody issues lead to massive hostilities.
Disputes concerning children are some of the most emotional and onerous litigation in family court.
During a marriage, parents usually live together and care for their children jointly. Even after divorce, parents have the opportunity to exercise joint custody, meaning both parents are involved in all important decisions regarding their children. Joint custody is not merely about parents' rights; it also is about their duties. Focus should be on the welfare of the children – a phrase all too often misunderstood. In all too many family court cases it becomes obvious that the parents have transferred their separation- or divorce-related conflict to their children. This can lead to exploitation of the children and potentially serious consequences for their development. Special sensitivity is required by legal counsel in custody disputes. In this process there are no real winners and often it is the children who lose. Although a lawyer’s foremost responsibility is to represent the interests of his/her client, guiding the legal dispute so as to keep the children's welfare at the forefront is paramount.
In custody disputes, one of the lawyer’s aims is to reduce conflict; however, in cases where a child’s well-being clearly is in danger, the lawyer must fully commit to using all legal means available to influence a custody decision in the best interests of the child.