What’s best for the children?

Custody and visitation are fighting words. Divorce lawyers and judges are beginning to use the less confrontational term “parenting schedule” instead. The new term is not just a euphemism. It also signals a different approach to an age-old problem.

Professionals emphasize the needs and interests of the children, not the rights of the parents. According to the most recent research and literature on child development, infants are capable of forming multiple attachments and bonds. That means infants can and should spend time with both Mom and Dad after divorce.

Just a few years ago experts believed an infant was at risk if the child spent more than a few hours away from the primary caretaker – usually the mother. That prevented courts from allowing a father to spend an overnight with an infant, and sometimes even curtailed overnights with a child under the age of five. That was consistent with the best interests of the child, according to the old school of jurisprudence. The father’s rights were less important than the child’s need for an undisturbed bonding experience with Mom.

Courts are now incorporating the latest research into visitation guidelines, requiring parenting classes for all divorcing parents of minor children, and appointing parenting coordinators (usually mental health professionals) to settle child-related disputes to reduce litigation.


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