What is the Best Custody Arrangement for an Infant?
If you are getting a divorce in California, creating a visitation schedule for a newborn or infant can seem overwhelming for new parents as they will want to spend a significant amount of time bonding with their new baby.
Just figuring out the right plan that fits into both parents' schedules is often challenging. Still, the primary consideration must be the best plan to meet the baby's needs.
A proper custody schedule for a baby needs has challenges. A baby's first year is a crucial bonding period with each parent, but it's over in a flash. Every parent knows these are precious life-changing moments, and they don't want to miss them.
A stable and consistent routine is essential for the healthy development of newborns and infants, such as sleeping and a feeding routine. Unfortunately, this makes a parenting plan for divorcing couples more challenging.
Babies naturally develop emotional attachments to multiple caregivers and form strong bonds with parents who hold, feed, talk to, and play with them. In addition, many babies around six months old can recognize their parents.
If only one parent routinely interacts with their infant, the relationship between the child and the other parent will usually develop poorly. Some interactions with the infant need both parents to have overnight stays in the parenting plan.
Another essential issue in creating a custody arrangement with an infant deal with the issue of conflict between parents. Some believe babies are too young to be impacted by hearing their loud verbal arguments in front of them, but this is a myth.
This means friendly cooperation between parents is not just in the baby's best interest related to their overall well-being; it's essential to creating a parenting plan that works best for everyone. So, let's review this topic further below.
How Can You Make an Infant Custody Arrangement?
It's no secret that a divorce involving kids can often be complex, but even more complicated when they are newborns or infants.
If your child is an infant, family courts will often automatically give custody to the mother initially, but both parents will be allowed to gain child custody.
Courts will review each parent's relationship with the infant, environment at home, income, and other factors. However, the best plan for babies is usually when parents reach a mutual agreement and avoid a judge making the decisions.
California family law courts always encourage parents to create their parenting plans before they submit them to the court. Creating your plan can do the following:
- Serve the best interest of your infant;
- Help to co-parent after the divorce;
- Help parents learn to compromise;
- Avoid long and stressful custody litigation in court;
A parenting plan will include details on time-sharing and decision-making. Time-sharing is the schedule of each parent's time with the infant, while decision-making is the legal authority to make crucial decisions, such as religion, school, and health care.
So, how can you make a custody agreement? Step one is to work with your spouse to create your parenting plan. It needs to include specific details, such as who will have custody for certain holidays.
It would be best if you get assistance from a lawyer to create a plan that works for both parents, as there are some unique factors when dealing with newborns and infants. After you reach an agreement, you and your spouse must sign it and present it to the court for approval. Next, it will be filed and will become a child custody order.
What Are the Common Custody Arrangements for Infants?
A custody arrangement for an infant is much different from older kids. Infants require more attention, such as waking up in the middle of the night and needing breastfeeding and a diaper change.
Breastfeeding means you might need to start pumping or switch to formula, a way to co-parent and spend time with the baby. Every family is unique and will find the best plan differently, but here are some common examples of infant custody agreements:
- Divide parenting time equally to reduce the risk of separation anxiety;
- Infant's time should be spent with one parent or the other;
- Reduce time with a nanny or babysitter as much as possible;
- Overnight visits with the non-custodial parent should be minimal;
- Your plan should be consistent and a predictable routine;
- Modify infant custody plan as they get older;
- Clear communication between parents.
Regardless of what type of infant custody plan you may have created, communication between parents is crucial. Your baby needs 24-hour supervision and depends entirely on other people for their basic needs.
Co-parenting is difficult at any age and even more challenging for infants and newborns. The needs of a baby needs evolve rapidly, and co-parents must have an effective system in place to share information. Babies recognize anger and harsh words. Disagreements will occur, but you need to work them out privately, not in the baby's presence.
What Things Should You Consider?
Your infant custody and visitation schedule will quickly change as the baby gets older, but here are some things to consider when creating a plan, such as the following:
- There is no “one-size-fits-all” plan. You should sit down with the other parent and express any concerns and go over a schedule;
- The needs of a baby change quickly. You need to have the flexibility and adjust rapidly to your baby's needs as they grow;
- Understand the stages of development. The development of babies up to 18 months seems to change almost daily, and knowing the stages will help;
- A good parenting plan for an infant should provide for frequent contact with both parents.
The non-custodial parent should have several visits a week with their baby, giving them a chance to feed, bathe, play with them, and put them to bed.
The holiday schedule for a baby will typically include Christmas, Thanksgiving, Mother's Day, and Father's Day. As the baby gets a little older, Halloween and July 4th fireworks can also be included.
Every Infant Visitation Plan Is Unique
All babies and families are different, and there is no one plan that will be best for all infants and newborns. However, you first need to understand that divorce is rarely, if ever, easy. When you have an infant in the middle of a divorce, it's even more challenging.
Next, you need to understand that all California family law courts will first consider the baby's best interest. It's not about you.
The next thing to understand is that mutual agreement with your spouse over infant visitation is always better than litigating the matter in court. Put simply, you need to find a way to resolve any differences. But, again, it's not about you.
The courts believe regular and routine contact with both parents is in the baby's best interest. Thus, your unique parenting plan should reflect it.
This means maximizing parental time with the infant. You'll need to set up your plan around your unique work schedules so that the infant is with one parent or the other most of the time. California's family law procedures are often complex, and navigating without a family lawyer can be challenging.
Please call our law firm or use the contact form if you need legal representation over divorce or child custody issues. We can provide guidance.
Furman & Zavatsky are Los Angeles family law attorneys who serve clients across Southern California, including Ventura County, Orange County, San Bernardino, Riverside, Santa Barbara, Long Beach, San Fernando Valley, and the surrounding areas.