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Age Appropriate Visitations in a Shared Custody Schedule for Infants

Updated on December 28, 2011

Creating a shared custody schedule for infants requires different considerations than schedules for older children. Family courts agree that shared child custody is generally in the best interest of the child, but working out the physical custody of an infant can make scheduling difficult. A child’s age largely determines what kind of visitation schedule you and the other parent will follow. Always create an age appropriate shared custody schedule for your infant that puts his or her needs first.

Infants learn to trust their caregivers when they receive loving and consistent care.
Infants learn to trust their caregivers when they receive loving and consistent care. | Source

Infant Needs

When parents divorce, their responsibilities to their children do not end, even though the marriage has. In a shared custody situation, the parents split responsibilities and create a schedule that allows them to spend quality time with the children. Infants need a stable routine and continuous care in order to develop properly.

Experts agree on several aspects of infant care that factor heavily into healthy development:

  • Infants need a predictable routine and stable environment
  • Infants learn to trust their caregivers through feeding, comforting, diapering and bathing
  • Infants become strongly attached to their primary caregiver
  • Infants also form attachments to secondary caregivers
  • Infants need frequent contact with both parents
  • Infants don’t respond well to disruptions in their routine

Based on these conditions that lead to healthy emotional development, most child psychology experts agree that it is not in an infant’s best interest to spend much time apart from the primary caregiver. This makes dividing time equally between parents with shared custody very difficult to do while keeping the infant’s best interests in mind.

Shared Custody Schedules for Infants

Parents of an infant involved in shared custody usually designate one parent as the primary caretaker. A healthy shared custody schedule for newborns and infants will be lopsided in favor of the primary caregiver. The infant will also spend the majority of time during the first 6 months of life in his or her primary residence.

The secondary caretaker receives plenty of short, frequent visits in the infant’s home. The schedule should allow frequent visits from the secondary caretaker, especially during key caregiving moments such as feedings or bath time. Visits in the infant’s home are ideal and enhance the interaction between the baby and the secondary caretaker because the baby is in comfortable surroundings.

Parents who agree to this type of shared custody schedule do so with the understanding that this setup is more beneficial to the infant than it is fair to the parents.

Parents can adjust the length of visitations as the infant grows and matures.
Parents can adjust the length of visitations as the infant grows and matures. | Source

Making It Work

When parents create a shared custody schedule that puts the needs of their infant first, they do so with the understanding that as the child ages, they can introduce more flexibility. There are plenty of ways that both parents can receive ample time with the baby and participate in caretaking activities that enhance bonding.

One example of a shared custody schedule for infants might include daily visits from the secondary caretaker in the morning before work and again after work. The primary caretaker may use this opportunity to run errands or simply retreat to another room for some relaxation time. In low-conflict relationships, the primary caretaker may even be willing to let the secondary caretaker sleep on the couch and attend to the infant during the night.

Other tips for making it work include taking the infant for short walks around the neighborhood, making short 1-hour visits if the secondary caretaker's home is nearby, asking the secondary caretaker along for doctor visits and encouraging extended family members to visit.

Summary

It's important for each parent to develop a relationship with their infant, but dividing up days on the calendar doesn’t take into consideration what the infant needs. Create an age appropriate shared custody schedule that can be modified as the baby matures. Take into account the child’s age, psychological needs and temperament to avoid causing unnecessary stress. To ignore the infant’s needs when creating a schedule may trigger permanent psychological harm.

Use custody scheduling software like Custody X Change to create an easy-to-read visual calendar that clearly outlines the secondary caretaker's visitation times. The calendar can be modified at any time to adjust to your infant's growth and development.

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