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Understanding Custody Schedules with a Newborn

  • Jun 29, 2020
  • The Harr Law Firm

Young dad holding baby girl on couchChild custody is rarely a simple or easy aspect of a divorce. And while every case is unique, child custody involving a newborn comes with its own set of potential issues and complications that must be addressed in order to ensure the best interests of the child. If you’re going through a divorce, or you’re intending to file for one, and you have an infant, contact our child custody lawyers to talk about some of the common issues involved with newborn custody. Keep reading to learn more about custody schedules for newborns and some things to keep in mind as you approach this topic with your ex.

Bonds with Both Parents Matter

In the past, many divorce lawyers used the idea of attachment theory to push for minimal separation between an infant and their primary caregiver. Attachment theory is based on the idea that the strength and quality of the baby’s attachment to their primary caregiver was vital to their development and, therefore, the two should be separated as little as possible. This often minimized visitation rights for the non-custodial parent.

While attachment to a primary caregiver is of course essential to any child’s development, more recent studies have shown that infants form attachments to both parents. Therefore, it is important to remember that your baby’s relationship with their other parent should also be strengthened by your custody as much as is reasonably possible.

Interacting in a Variety of Contexts

As most new parents know, consistency is important for newborns. Consistent bedtime and naptime routines promote better sleep, for instance, while consistent feeding and play can promote growth and development. However, many time, separated or divorced couples of infants will sacrifice the secondary caregiver’s time with their child in favor of maintaining a consistent schedule, believing that dual-parent involvement will interfere with consistency.

However, many child development professionals do recommend that both parents have opportunities to interact with their infant children in a variety of contexts. This means establishing a schedule that includes opportunities for both parents to participate in mealtime, playtime, bath time, and yes, even naptime and bedtime. Establishing such a schedule helps both parents to form stronger bonds with their child, as well as helping them to learn their baby’s habits and better anticipate their needs. In this way, both parents have the opportunity to establish a strong foundation and loving relationship with their child from an early age.

Of course, this can be difficult for infants who are exclusively breastfed, or if the secondary parent doesn’t have a safe sleeping space for the baby in their home. As we mentioned above, every situation is unique, and adjustments must be made for every family’s needs. However, it’s important to bear in mind that long-lasting benefits for your child of establishing a custody schedule that allows for interaction with both parents in a variety of care-based situations.

Co-Parenting with Your Ex

A harmonious relationship between both parents is essential to any child’s development—including an infant’s. While a baby might not be as aware of the conflicts between you and your ex as an older child might be, this does not mean that they are entirely unaffected.  In fact, studies have shown that babies who are exposed to arguments between their parents—even while they’re sleeping—can become more sensitive to tension and raised voices in the future. It’s important to keep your disagreements away from your children, even when they can’t understand what you’re saying to one another.

When developing your custody schedule, it’s important to approach it with an attitude of cooperation and to communicate openly and honestly with one another. As already mentioned, consistency is important in a baby’s schedule, even (and perhaps especially) in a co-parenting situation. Be sure to communicate regarding matters such as what your baby is permitted to eat, what new foods you’re comfortable introducing to your child and when, what your baby’s bedtime routine is like, and so on.

Such matters are often the reason that newborn custody schedules can get so complicated, because it involves far more than simply scheduling a pickup and drop-off time. However, if you and your ex can learn to communicate effectively and always keep your baby’s best interest at heart—including their need to bond with both of you—then it is entirely possible to work out a happy, harmonious custody schedule that works for your family.

If you need assistance with developing a newborn custody schedule, settling custody disputes, or filing for divorce, contact the family law experts at Harr Law today.