When petitioning for divorce, it's important to note that there are two types of custody: physical custody and legal custody. Both will be addressed by the judge in your final divorce decree. Physical custody is who physically has control over the child. This is where the child sleeps and lives, who takes the child to school, and who oversees the day to day upbringing of the child. It's not uncommon for parents to split physical custody of the children after a divorce, but this final decision is made by the judge. Legal custody refers to who makes important decisions about healthcare and education on behalf of the child. This is especially important when the child is younger. You can ask the judge to award you primary physical and legal custody or you and your ex can work out an agreement.
Best Interest of the Child
Next, it's important to note that everything that the judge determines during the proceedings is based on a legal standard. This standard is what is in the best interest of the child. The judge will typically try to disrupt the child’s life as little as possible. This means that if it's at all possible it's best that the child continues to live in the same house and attend the same school that they were attending prior to the petition for divorce. Also, if your children are very young and primarily under the care of their mom, then the judge may try to continue to keep them with mom as much as possible.
Prior to starting court, the judge will require you and your ex to attend mediation. Mediation gives you a chance to work out custody issues without the court intervening. Even if you think that working out an agreement is impossible, the judge will likely still require you to attend mediation.