The question of who ends up with custody of a child is important and arguably one of the biggest issues the family court system is tasked with addressing. Before you deal with a custody situation, it's worth learning a bit about how that system works and what to expect as you move through the process.
The Best Interests of the Child Always Come First
Underline that fact right now because it is the defining feature of how custody proceedings work. Even if there are zero concerns about things like abuse or parental availability, the court system must consider the best interests of the child in rendering every decision. Historically, this has meant primarily placing children with their biological mothers, if possible, and making sure both parents are involved in the kid's upbringing.
The best interests of the child can also be a factor in deciding some unusual questions. For example, if one parent wants to relocate to a different state for work, they may be prevented from doing so because it would create a burden in keeping both parents in a child's life.
Do Not Start a War without Serious Cause
Nothing will turn a court against a party faster than combative behavior that isn't justified by something extreme. Fighting tooth and nail to prevent an ex from seeing their child should be reserved for situations where legitimate abuse issues arise. If you have major worries about a former partner's conduct, you should register those with your child custody attorney. They will convey your concerns to the court, and an officer of the court will thoroughly investigate them before a permanent order is issued.
Child Support Is a Separate Issue
The responsibility to economically support a child is important, but it doesn't play a role in deciding custody questions. When dealing with custody concerns, stay focused on those and not other problems, such as divorce proceedings and the payment of support.
Unless there is a compelling reason to not do so, awarding joint custody is a common outcome. Both parents will be encouraged to work out arrangements where the child will spend time with them. Major questions, such as dealing with medical concerns or where to send a child for school, will require both parents to arrive at agreements. It is rare for a court to completely exclude one parent from the life of a child, so you should prepare for a future that involves co-parenting with your ex.
For more information, contact a local child custody attorney.