Too often, in my experience dealing with families going through a most difficult situation such as divorce and custody disputes, I see the impact that hostile court proceedings have on the children. They are often angry, not just because their parents will be apart, but because they are stuck in the middle of this tug-of-war and are being pulled in two directions by the warring parents. Believe it or not, by the time a marriage ends, the children have seen and experienced so much that they are glad the two combatants will be going their separate ways. The children often look forward to the peace that is to come.
Unfortunately, what follows is a continuing, sometimes years-long, battle in court. The child is then forced to "choose sides." S/he feels pressured to make each parent think that the child loves that parent but only tolerates the other parent. This scenario isn't created spontaneously by the child. It is the direct result of the actions of the parents. Sometimes it is it is subtle and sometimes it isn't. Some parents get angry when the child speaks on the phone to the other parent. The child sees this and tries to avoid that situation. Sometimes one parent cries frequently over the breakup in the presence of the child. The child may then feel the need to pull away from the other parent in order to ease the sadness. Children often hear arguing over the phone or during visitation exchanges. That, too, is unhealthy for the child,making him feel responsible for the tension.
Occasionally, you come across a case where the parents are in court to dot the I's, cross the T's and have a Judge's stamp on an otherwise amicable parting of ways. Invariably, the children in those cases are happy, well adjusted, and thrive from having a healthy relationship with both parents.