Parenting Plan for Infants and Toddlers: Are Overnight Visits In the Best Interest of Parents?
The courts must use the best interest of the child standard when making custody/visitation decisions. But are overnight visits on alternating weekends in the best interests of children or rather a convenience for the working parents?
The key to establishing a successful parenting plan for an infant or a toddler is to look at the world through the child’s eyes. What would the parents see if they did? They would most likely see the complete lack of logic in setting up a plan with alternating weekend visits with an overnight. For an infant or a toddler who has developed a strong bond with his/her primary caretaker, separation from that caretaker for an entire weekend develops feelings of abandonment and fear. The child’s primary attachment (usually to the mother) is a very important for overall development. Secondary attachment (usually to the father) is equally important but biologically different. The child’s need for closeness with his/her primary attachment figure should be honored when establishing parenting plan. It has been established in the world of psychology that young children (infants and toddlers) benefit most from daily contact with both parents without long stretches without seeing the primary parent, especially at night. Parents should make special effort to schedule time with their young children on a daily basis if possible. This arrangement is very short in its duration. When the child reaches 3 years of age, psychologists agree, the child is ready for longer stretches (i.e. overnight visits) with secondary attachment parent. Having daily contact with the child forms strong bonds between the child and secondary attachment parent. That parent can participate in the day-to-day parenting and get to know the child as an individual. On the other hand, alternating weekend visits, although convenient from the perspective of a working parent, do not allow for a strong bond building and true involvement in the day-to-day parenting of a child. Lawyers, psychologists, judges, and parents should work together to ensure that divorcing or splitting parents of young children do everything they can to put their difference aside and start seeing the world through the eyes of their children.