Divorcing? Whose side are the kids on?

Kids, especially the older ones, sometimes take sides in a divorce. They form Team Mom and Team Dad. A lot of times the parents actively court this. But sometimes, it just is how the drama plays out, and a parent never knows till divorce is imminent, how a kid will react. I have had situations where the client is literally shocked that the child wants to be with the other parent.
Not that wanting to live with the other parent is necessarily a team up situation. The child could be totally torn between the two but feels that when all the factors are weighed together, that he or she prefers to live with the other parent.
But there are situations where it is a team up situation, where the children are aggressive and hostile towards the other parent and they are clear demarcations about how they want the divorce and custody issues to play out. I think this break down happens long before the divorce action is commenced. This happens over years where the child and the parent they are opposed to, become alienated. Sometimes it could be because of how the children perceive the alienated parent treats the favored parent.
So for example, the mother is usually verbally abusive to the father? The children may start to form a protective bond around the father. The father beats the mother when he is intoxicated? The children start to form a protective bond around the mother. Things like that.
This usually happens with older kids. I mean, the Gosselin kids won’t have this issue. They are just babies. They love both parents. That’s pretty clear (I finally saw about 5 minutes of an episode the other night!) They have not picked any sides.
But with older kids, this thing about picking sides¬†can be decisive in terms of custody once the law guardian gets wind of the children’s sentiments and informs the judge. I mean, sometimes it backfires. But usually, if the children are, say, over 12, their preferences are heavily factored into custody decisions.
So if you want the kids, it behooves you to be on very good terms with them. And start looooong before the divorce.