Special Considerations When Creating a Parenting Plan for an Infant
Sharing responsibility for a child after a divorce or separation is difficult from a logistical and psychological point of view. Coordinating pick-up and drop-off in light of school and work schedules will be challenging, but knowing the other parent may make decisions that conflict with a parent’s wishes or create conflict is much harder to address. Generally, when people envision the childcare responsibilities of shared child custody, the image that emerges is of school-age children and all of the demands this age group puts on parents with school and extracurricular activities. However, child custody arrangements related to an infant look much different and require very specific considerations to ensure the child is getting the care and nurturing he/she needs at this crucial life stage. Parents seeking to divide parenting responsibilities are expected to present a mutually agreed-upon parenting plan, or at least for each side to propose his/her desired plan, but the special circumstances of an infant require the guidance of an experienced family law attorney to ensure the court will accept the parents’ plan, and that it includes the flexibility the parents will need to incorporate as needs and expectations will change as the child grows. A discussion of how to approach creating a parenting plan that addresses the unique needs of an infant will follow below.
Crafting a Parenting Plan
Effective parenting plans are tied to meeting the developmental stage of the child and the ability of the parents to cooperate. Even young infants will experience the impact of a divorce, particularly if there is a lot of conflict between the couple. If the parents can reestablish stability and equilibrium, the negative effects of this event can be mitigated. Thus, the need to create a workable parenting plan that puts the child first. While infants will not understand the circumstances of divorce, they will perceive instability in their environment, which can affect the ability to form bonds, a crucial part of thriving at this stage. There is no way to completely eliminate shifting the infant’s environment and respect each parent’s right to spend time with the child, but to minimize disruption, a consistent schedule should be maintained. However, frequent contact with each parent is important to bonding, but this goal must be balanced against a breastfeeding schedule, meaning overnight visits may not be possible until the child is older.
More Practical Considerations
The specific and constant caregiving needs of an infant requires the child primarily live with one parent, almost always the mother, with the other parent visiting the child several times a week. Again, frequent contact is essential, including allowing each parent the opportunity to bathe, feed, soothe, and put the child to sleep, i.e., experience with all aspects of childcare. However, an infant may have a caregiver preference, which may require limiting time away from this parent until the child adjusts to limit provoking anxiousness. This approach is especially important if one parent wants to increase or initiate their involvement with the child and starting with just a few hours several times a week is the usually the best approach to facilitate this change. Basically, parenting plans for infants will tend to heavily favor one parent, with the other limited to short, but regular, visits. This dynamic will quickly change, but it needs to be honored until the child is ready to more evenly split time with each parent.
Contact a Florida Family Law Attorney
Child custody matters are highly complicated, and creating an acceptable parenting plan is often trickier than you realize. To better ensure a judge will accept your plan, work with a family law attorney on provisions that should be included. The attorneys at the Donna Hung Law Group know what a court expects to see, and can help you draft an effective and workable parenting plan. Contact the Orlando family law firm at (407) 999-0099 for a consultation.