Parents divorcing is often a stressful time for all involved. Among other things, one of the primary issues is which parent raises the children. This can turn into a very ugly battle in which both parents do their damnedest to ensure they get full custody of all the children.
In fiction, another solution is sometimes agreed upon: the parents split the kids down the middle, á la the biblical story of Solomon. When this sort of split occurs, the father will get the sons or older children while the mother gets any daughters or younger children. This can and will occur regardless of one parent's skill, or even suitability, to raise a child.
This split will often cause drama between the children, since a Solomon Divorce seems to also require that they never actually see one another again, even if they vehemently cried "Don't Split Us Up".
The trope is a lot more common in fiction than reality. Children are (almost) never split up in a divorce with the possible exception of half- or step-siblings. That said, this does occur in certain circumstances; in the legal terminology, this is usually called a "split parenting situation" (and even then, the law makes it mandatory to at least recommend visiting times and/or therapy for the child).
Named after the Judgment of Solomon, except in that case there was only one child and the whole thing was a ruse in any case. Can easily be seen as Values Dissonance or Moral Dissonance, since within the setting this is almost never looked upon as all that unusual. Compare Separated at Birth for examples of when these siblings were separated by other factors.
- Digimon Adventure had this with Yamato and Takeru, with Yamato going to live with their father and Takeru staying with their mother. According to the Two-and-a-half Year Break CD drama, Yamato ultimately ended up making the decision of which kid went with which parent.
- Occurs in Digimon Frontier with Koji and Koichi. Koji lives with their dad, Koichi with their mom. Despite their being identical twins, neither twin was aware of the other, with Koichi only finding out from his grandmother on the latter's deathbed.
- Yu-Gi-Oh!, Katsuya Jonouchi lived with his father, an alcoholic and gambling addict (which is probably a factor why his dueling style heavily involves luck and is sparse on rare and reliable cards), while his sister lived with their mother. Jonouchi and his mother were reluctant to even speak to each other until his sister's eye surgery (which Jonouchi paid for), and the plot didn't dwell on it. (Seeing as he was very close to his sister after that, we can assume he and his mother were at least on speaking terms.)
- Ichinensei Ni Nacchattara - Iori and his sister Ion experienced this same split and inexplicably never saw each other again until after Iori's Fountain of Gender Bending incident.
- Averted in the manga Little House with an Orange Roof, Shoutaro and Natsumi gain full custody of both their children following their respective divorces. Further, Natsumi's struggle to keep her children in the face of a disapproving ex-mother-in-law is a plot point.
- Koshiro & Nanoka in Koi Kaze were separated for ten years following their parents divorce. The only reason Nanoka comes to live with Koshiro and their father: It's convenient for school.
- Shugo and Rena .hack//Legend of the Twilight can apparently only meet in "The World." Though this isn't explained why it's possible they simply live across the country making meeting difficult. This is only in the non-canon anime however. The Manga has their parents together and they are sitting right next to each other while playing the game.
- Ultimately revealed to be the origin of the two Mazes in Maze Megaburst Space.
- Setsuna and Sara in Angel Sanctuary, although they make a point of getting together. Sara refers to it as dating, and that's not the worst of it.
- Saki has the titular character living with her father in a relatively remote area while her elder sister lives with their mother in Tokyo. The Miyanagas are separated, but not yet divorced, and Saki holds out hope that they will be able to reunite as a family.
- Fresh Pretty Cure!: Miki Aoni/Cure Berry lives with her divorced mom, and her Disappeared Dad took her brother Kazuki with him. They just coincidentally attend the same school, and then Miki took advantage of the fact that nobody knew they were related to ask Kazuki to pretend that they were a couple, so Miki doesn't get swarmed with a lot of unwanted admirers.
- Strobe Edge: Daiki lives with his dad and Mayuka with her mom after their parents divorced.
- Also happened in Blue Spring Ride, (from the same author of Strobe Edge) with Kou moving away with his mother while his older brother stayed with their father. A few years later, he moves back in with his father after his mother's death.
- In Saiyuki, this is part of Hakkai's convoluted backstory. His parents divorced when he was a toddler, with his mother taking him and his father taking his twin sister. They didn't meet again until they encountered each other by chance at school and promptly fell in love. Too bad about that Westermarck Effect never having the chance to kick in...
- In The Daichis—Earth Defense Family, mother Seiko tells the kids to choose which parent they want to live with after the divorce...then pretty much mandates that daughter Nozomi stays with her while son Dai goes with Mamoru. (Nozomi had chosen her father, while Dai stubbornly insisted he wanted to stay with both.) In any event, the divorce doesn't wind up happening.
- Kaguya-sama: Love is War: When Shirogane's mom left seven years before the story began, she took his little sister Kei with her (since she was a serious Education Mama and Kei was more successful in her studies). Kei is already back to living with her father and brother by the time the story starts because she ran away from her mother.
- A tragic example happens in Major. Joe Gibson's wife Laura filed for divorce after he refused to go back to North America, taking their baby daughter Melissa with her while their son Junior stayed with him in Japan. Then a few months later, they learn that Laura and Melissa died in a car crash.
- In The DCU, this happened in the backstory of Todd Rice, aka Obsidian. After his adoptive father lost his job and started drinking heavily, Mrs. Rice eventually got fed up and declared she and the younger son were leaving. Todd didn't want to leave his father alone and stayed; his mother walked out with little Jeremy without a second thought or a forwarding address, and was never heard from again.
- In Friendship of the Houses, a Harry Potter fanfic, Gregory Goyle and Pansy Parkinson split their children after divorce: the father gets the two-year-old daughter and the mother gets the infant son. Eleven years later, when the siblings meet again at Hogwarts, cue Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy, as the brother can't defend himself at all and, when he gets in a fight, he runs for help to his Brawn Hilda of a sister.
- In Ultimate Misfits, Phyllis and her twin David were split up as infants when their parents divorced. In this case, the father got the daughter and the mother got the son. When their parents died in a plane crash when they were two, Phyllis' adopted father Emmett was unable to find David's whereabouts. Phyllis and David didn't reunite until age 21, after Emmett had died of illness. David had been adopted by a Japanese couple and raised in Japan.
- Despicable Me 3 has Gru finding out that he has a twin brother and that right after they were born their parents got divorced, each took a child, and agreed never to see each other again.
- Forms the backstory of The Parent Trap (1961) (and its 1998 remake). The parents of a pair of infant twin girls each take one with them after they divorce, completely lose touch with the other half of the family, and never even tell their daughters that they have a sibling, let alone a twin. The girls only find out about it after meeting each other by chance when they're teenagers.
- This is the cause of the rift between the main characters in Warrior. Due to the father being an abusive alcoholic, the mother decided to run away and take the kids. Younger brother Tommy was happy to go, even though he was his father's favorite and star athlete. Older brother Brendan decided to stay because he fell in love with his Highschool Sweetheart and also at the possibility of gaining some time with his father, since he always felt as if he was the Unfavorite.
- Inverted in the French film Papa ou Maman (Daddy or Mommy), where neither parent wants custody of the kids, and thought the other was planning to take them.
- Lottie and Lisa by Erich Kästner is the original novel from which The Parent Trap was adapted. It follows the same plot of two girls meeting, realizing they're identical twins, and proceeding to do a Twin Switch to get to know their other parent.
- Done to the boy-girl twins in the novel Pirouette, possibly more justified since this took place before WWII and the splitting parents were Russians living in England. They picked kids via gender, leading to one kid having a happy hippie upbringing with her wild and crazy mom and the other kid living a very prim and proper (and filled with suppressed rage from the Parental Abandonment) life in England. When the two kids finally reunited, it didn't go well.
- Happens in the young adult book Time Twins. The split came about because the social secretary talked to the brother and the sister separately. When the sister explicitly stated that she wanted to live with whichever parent the brother was living with, she is told that his preferences doesn't matter, the secretary wants to know which parent she, the girl, prefers. She picks her mother, hoping that her brother will do so, too: after all, her brother was always closer to the mother than to the father. It turns out that he picked the father, for (presumably) the same reason.
- In Caucasia by Danzy Senna, biracial protagonist Birdie is left with her white mother when her parents split because her skin is light enough to pass as olive and her passionate about black pride father feels more connected to her darker-skinned older sister. Ironically, Birdie was the more interested of the two sisters in racial issues.
- In The Babysitters Club, Dawn's mother initially received full custody of her and her younger brother, Jeff. She abruptly decided to move them back to her hometown in Stoneybrook, Connecticut while her ex-husband stayed in California. Jeff started acting out after a while, because he missed both his father and his hometown, and eventually moved back in with him. Dawn, meanwhile, had an easier time sticking it out because she'd made more friends initially, but her own homesickness led to her spending first a semester with her father, before eventually moving back in with him full-time as well.
- In A Murder Is Announced Pip and Emma were separated by their parents in this manner. It has been so long that when they are both living in the same house, they don't recognize each other initially.
- Briefly mentioned in an episode of NCIS. A pair of brothers was split up when their parents divorced; the mother was "only able to save one," while the other was raised by the father in a town with a brewing feud. The "saved" brother wound up becoming a marine, thus dragging NCIS into it when he went back to help his brother with said feud.
- The motivation behind a pair of unsubs in one episode of Criminal Minds to kidnap a bus full of high schoolers. Their parents' divorce sent them to opposite ends of the country. It's actually how the team was able to identify them. Their major form of contact was online gaming with each other, and Garcia was befuddled by the fact that they'd originally been logging in from the same location them suddenly started logging on from so far apart. When Reid suggests it's because their parents divorced, it's treated as the obvious answer, suggesting this is the standard. The divorce was so traumatic that they ended up deciding to create what could be best described as "what if Jigsaw decided to base his games on a First-Person Shooter?"
- Elan and his Evil Twin Nale, from The Order of the Stick, were raised by their mother and father respectively, after they divorced over Character Alignment issues. Elan theorizes that they intentionally didn't tell either twin about the other, so as to increase the dramatic tension should they ever meet as adults. Elan's correct about his father, at least in regards to why he didn't tell the one he raised. For their mother's part, Elan later recalls finding her crying from time to time over a lost "Nail" when he was a child. At the time, he thought she was just upset over carpentry but looking back it seems she was too heartbroken to ever explain the situation to Elan.
- Roommates: Jareth ended up with his mother (Jadis The White Witch) while his sister was taken by their father (the Erlkönig). In a ways it's playing with the trope, as it is implied that Jadis isn't the mother of the girl, so she kept her own child to protect him from a perceived threat.
- Terry and Matt in Batman Beyond. In the the first episode, Matt lives with their mom, while Terry lives with their father. Unlike most examples, there appears to be regular visitation. As the series wears on it is suggested that prior to the pilot episode Terry's parents shared joint custody of their sons and the two would shuttle back and forth between them, something that played a part in Terry's early juvenile delinquency. And you have Amanda Waller to thank for that.
- Defied in The Dragon Prince: as Claudia explains, when her parents split up they asked her and Soren who they wanted to live with. Soren picked their father while Claudia was torn. It was their mother who then decided that the siblings needed to stay together, leaving them behind when she went to Del Bar.
- Of all shows, Robot Chicken points out the Fridge Horror of this trope, especially in regards to The Parent Trap (1998).
Judge: You want to split up twin sisters? You understand that children are not like monetary possessions?
- While today this is uncommon (although it does occur) it historically happened much more often. In particular, in the English-speaking countries, a set of presumptions arose in the 19th century dictating that in general, sons of divorced parents should be raised by their fathers, while daughters should be raised by their mothers. An exception was made for children in their "tender years" (always below seven years old, although the limit could go as high as twelve in some jurisdictions), as young children were generally considered to "naturally" belong in the care of their mothers. Again, this was just a presumption—fathers could and did occasionally get custody of children in their "tender years", and sons who aged past the threshould could and did sometimes remain with their mothers—but in the vast majority of cases, as soon as the sons aged out of the "tender years," they were sent straight to Dad. Eventually, this doctrine was abolished, as the damaging effects of separating siblings was gradually accepted by the courts, and keeping siblings together became the default rule. However, the "tender years" doctrine remained, which generally meant that all the children would stay with the mother, even if that wasn't necessarily the best thing for them. Only in the last quarter of the 20th century did the courts theoretically abandon this analysis, and it wasn't until the 1990s or 2000s that courts began to seriously regard fathers as potentially equally good caretakers for young children as mothers. Even today, it's a serious struggle, and one of the main grievances of the men's rights movement.