If you have an infant child and are in the process of getting divorced or if you are having a child with someone you do not have a relationship with, it is vital that you understand that custodial time with infants is different than custodial time with older children. Here are three things you need to keep in mind while establishing a custody arrangement for your infant.
#1 Forget About The Every-Other-Weekend Schedule
The first thing you need to do is throw out the idea that an every-other-weekend schedule is the best way to go. The every-other-weekend schedule was designed with older children in mind who are well-past infancy. It was designed to accommodate school schedules and routines that infants do not have. Do not fall into the default mindset that you need to set up your visitations using the every-other-weekend model.
#2 Ask For More Frequent Contact
In order for your baby to be comfortable around you, they need to see you more frequently than every other weekend. Infant needs to frequently see both parents in order to bond with them. It is important to take your baby's development into consideration during the custody arrangement. Infants do not have the same concept of time that older children have, and they rely on being held, making eye contact, and hearing your voice in order to bond with you. If you don't see your child for two weeks, your baby is going to struggle to feel comfortable around you and will struggle to develop a long-term connection with you.
According to research done for the Los Angeles Superior Court judges, infants should see their non-custodial parent for at least 3 hours every other day. During the first month of a child's life, according to research, the non-custodial parent should see their child for one to two hours one to two times per day. For the second and third month of the child's life, they should spend at least three hours with the non-custodial parent. For months four, five and six, the amount of time should increase to four hours a day with the non-custodial parent. From six months through a year, the infant should now be able to spend at least two whole days with the non-custodial parent if being breastfed, and overnight visits if the child is being bottle feed. For the toddler years, a couple of overnight visits every two weeks should be arranged, as well as a few short visits during the day in between these times.
See if you can work together to set up a visitation schedule where you can see your child every day or every other day for just a couple of hours at a time. These types of visitation arrangements for infants often work best if you work with the custodial parent to keep your baby's routine the same. Try to arrange to visit during a time when the child is typically awake and alert. This type of visitation also works well if the other parent is okay with you spending time with the infant at their home or at the infant's childcare. This is a great alternative to overnight visits for infant children, and work best when both parents respect each other and are able to spend time with each other.
For example, if you have a positive relationship with the other parent, you could arrange to drop by their home and spend an hour or two with your baby every day. During this time, the primary parent can stay with you and the child, or they can be busy doing other things around the house, or just use this time as a little break. Or, if your child is at a day care during the week, you could arrange to spend your lunch hour with your child or pick them up for a couple of hours and drop them back off at their daycare.
The court system wants to do what is in the best interest in your child, and generally recognizes that infants bond different than older children. Most courts recognize that infants need lots of physical contact in order to bond and become familiar with adults. They recognize that the spaced out contact that is possible as your child ages does not allow a parent-child bond to form and can be detrimental to your overall relationship with your child when they are an infant.
#3 Revise Your Visitation Schedule As Your Child Gets Older
Finally, make sure that it is made clear in your custody arrangement that you want your visitation schedule revised as your child gets older. Instead of seeing your child for a few hours every day, make sure your visitation schedule changes over time so that you can spend longer amounts of time with your child. As your child turns into a toddler, overnight visitations will be more developmentally appropriate. Your child will not need the same daily face-to-face and physical contact they needed as an infant in order to bond with you. A custody arrangement where the child alternates days or weeks with each parent will be more appropriate.
Make sure you find an attorney who understands child development and will fight to establish a custody schedule that will takes your infant's need and your right to develop a parental bond with your child into consideration. This is a vital time in your child's life, and you need a lawyer who will help you get the time you need to establish a connection with your child. Contact an attorney who specializes family and divorce cases, such as the Law Office of Shelli Wright Johnson, for more information about your particular case.