For many divorced and separated parents with children, there will be a common answer as to why they ended up with the child custody and visitation arrangement they have. The answer being, "the judge decided it." In other words, the judge chose the parenting arrangement you have based on his/her belief of what was in your child's best interest.
Judges do not always make the child custody decision or choose the parenting plan arrangement for the parents. In fact, more often than not, the judge will not make the child custody decision for the parents. Child custody lawyers describe the legal relationship between a parent and his or her child in which the parent has the right to make decisions for the child and the parent has a duty to care for the child.
It is usually when the parents are unable to reach an agreement on child custody the judge will choose the parenting arrangement for them. If the judge makes the child custody decision for the parent's it is often referred to as a final judicial order or judgment on child custody.
Parents typically know what's best for their children including decisions about child custody and visitation. The difficulty for the parents is often the inability to set apart their own emotions and wishes from the needs of the child. Parents are typically given the greatest amount of flexibility in choosing a parenting plan that reflects the best interest of their child.
However, when the parents are unable to come to an agreement on child custody and visitation the judge will often be given the task to make the decision about child custody and will also have a tremendous amount of leeway in choosing a parenting plan he/she thinks is best for the child.