Divorcing when you have children of any age presents challenges. However, getting divorced when you have an infant has its own set of unique challenges. One of them is overcoming some long-held beliefs about what infants need from their parents.
Child development professionals used to almost universally believe that babies need to bond with a primary caregiver in order to become emotionally and socially well-adjusted children and adults. That belief typically drove parents and the legal system to advocate that infants remain with that primary caregiver (typically the mother) full-time, giving the father little opportunity to forge any type of bond with his child. Daily visits to the mother’s home (or less frequently) were the norm.
More current research has shown, however, that infants and young children can form attachments to more than one caregiver that can promote healthy emotional growth. Some experts espouse the benefit of co-parents sharing the basic responsibilities of caring for their infant, e.g., feeding them, diapering them and putting them to bed. That generally means allowing the child to have overnight visits with the non-custodial parent.
However, consistency of routine is still important. Both parents have to be able to work together to create a shared routine and communicate regularly about their child’s schedule, development and any issues with a minimum of conflict.
Parents often believe that their conflicts don’t impact infants the way they might affect older children who are able to understand what their parents are arguing about. However, studies have found that infants who are exposed to parental arguments (even if they occur after they’ve gone to sleep) have a heightened sensitivity to conflict.
Having a clear, detailed custody schedule and parenting plan for your infant can help minimize conflict and confusion. Your attorney can help you seek the schedule that’s in the best interests of your baby.