Divorced With Children

How you and your children can thrive after divorce.

Custody Arrangements for Very Young Children

Recently, I have found myself thinking a lot about the best, and the worst, custody arrangements for very young children. When I say very young children, I am thinking about infants (aged newborn to roughly 18 months) as well as toddlers (aged 18 months to about 3 years). Read More

Almost honest but then more BS father exaltation

Almost honest, but then BS for father exaltation. All human beings form secondary attachments throughout their lives. Extended relatives, peers, strong friendships, lovers, spouses, and then their own children and grandchildren.

Is it necessary for the father to be around for any amount of time at all during the period of life when the child has infant amnesia anyway?
Absolutely not. It's absolutely unnecessary to "work at" this. How does a complete stranger, e.g., form a memorable attachment with, say a three-year-old? EASY.

There are two parts to this, and most people have observed it occur with beloved extended family who live far enough away that they only visit once or twice a year.

The first step is that children, like dogs, will take their cues about the worthiness and safety of people who visit based on the parent's reaction to them. When the parent demonstrates obvious affection and joy upon the stranger's arrival, that cues the children (and the dog) that the person holds high value and is trustworthy, safe. Of course many valuable and trustworthy people don't engender interest or affection. So that's step two.

Step two is the bearing of gifts coupled with the expression of interest, joy and approval of the child by the visitor. There is NOTHING that will engender squeals of delight in little children for subsequent visits than the remembrance of that. It imprints in the same way Xmas is used to imprint in the future proselytized the value of religion.

And done. It is so not difficult.

Emery should know well all of this.

This is why a custodial

This is why a custodial parent should NEVER have dating/sexual partners spend the night when children are home and vice versa. Women, men and judges who keep children away from the willing and fit non custodial parent without GOOD cause, should be hung! THAT is child abuse in it's worst form.

getting into family's lives

The comment about child abuse makes me think of a huge paradox. In the child protective system, we are generally "hands off" and work hard to reunite children and families when abuse is substantiated.

In custody disputes, we make dramatic changes in families lives based on psychological tests, not evidence of abuse.

I wouldn't call this child abuse, but I think it's pretty scary what judges can and sometimes do order in child custody cases.

And for the record, the extreme interventionism doesn't just shut some parents out of their children's lives. In some cases, it does the opposite, for example, ordering joint physical custody over extremely long and impractical distances.

I think if the government

I think if the government (courts) MUST get in family relations, they better know what they're doing. Ordering child support= good, putting unreasonable restrictions on one parent's relationship with their child= child abuse. This does more harm than good for the child.

And the non-custodial parent

And the non-custodial parent when the child is with them every other weekend? Particularly when the non-custodial parent might have 5 different partners - how can the young child begin to understand this multiple and varied attachment?

BS for father exaltation???

A complete stranger absolutely can form an attachment with a three year.

Isn't the problem that we don't want fathers to be complete strangers to three year olds??

And as for a primary attachment figure demonstrating "obvious affection and joy upon the stranger's arrival", well, the tone of this comments doesn't give much reassurance in that regard.


I have a website about trying to give you some tips when going threw family court that I have found out about after going threw it for 10 years myself check it out http://igniterscave.com

Then I guess with your logic

Then I guess with your logic it isnt important for the Mom to be around the child at an early age, either

Your name says it all - it is

Your name says it all - it is about your rights and not those of the children. The children have the right to a secure attachment to one person- either mother or father - and not to be pulled in directions to suit the needs of any party.

Perhaps you would have some credibility if you called yourself "children's rights", which is what this is all about.

Children forming attachments

We appreciate the care that you take for not interfering with the primary attachment. It bucks the trendy rhetoric and is a brave thing to do. However, it does appear that you are still pandering to the demands of the fatherhood exaltation movement by seeming to make the development and protection of this secondary attachment more difficult than it has to be.

People form powerful and enduring secondary attachments throughout their lives. Nothing needs to be done while the child is an infant or toddler to assure this. Powerful secondary attachments are formed to new younger siblings, grandparents and other extended relatives, close friends, lovers, spouses, and one's own children and grandchildren. While qualitatively different from the primary (meaning "first") attachment, these secondary attachments even can end up being the stronger attachments in the long run.

So there is no need to impose misery, meddling, and more conflict on new mothers and their babies while the feelings from the breakup of the adult relationship remain raw and in litigation. There is no need to risk the exacerbation and entrenchment of hostilities by not permitting them to subside and heal. It is unnecessary to go through these time-sharing contortions with infants and toddlers.

The fantasy that nonresident parents also or equally can be "primary attachment" figures is nonsensical. It's well past the time for the mental health community to get honest about these issues, and to stop doing what is forensically and politically and financially expedient for them by catering to misguided adults' demands, fears and needs, and to start actually helping people learn how to create long-term child and family well-being for everyone.

So, when do you propose fathers see their babies?

I absolutely agree that parenting can't be absolutely equal for babies or children of any age. Trying to be equal is about the parents, not the children.

What I don't see here, and hope to get to, is serious thought about a serious problem.

Custody or battle field for parents

I very much agree with your post and strongly believe that the 50/50 custody mindset our judicial system enforces does not address the toddlers comfort. Of course each case is individual but ripping out babies/toddlers from primary caregiver and imposing a back and forth schedules is not psychologically healthy for any child. I understand the fact that at an early age babies get used to things quickly but it can not be denied that with such a framework for custody we are just appeasing one or the other parent's struggle to get satisfaction maybe even revenge. As most couples that face separation/divorce with young children do not get along rarely would I say that true interests of the child are considered. I would dare to express that our judicial system makes a weapon out of the young children as most fathers are not equipped to be mothers and the ones that are probably less often get a just outcome. What's worse in my opinion is when our fragile family lives lay open for a decision in front of a retired judge or a judge from another division (without much experience in family matters) and them honestly believing that there is no harm in satisfying both parents equally.

Children Forming Attachments

Commentators opposed to shared parenting and overnights for infants and toddlers post-divorce have been relying on misleading interpretations of very flawed research to argue that young children need to spend most of their time and every night in the care of one “primary” parent. Lawmakers and courts often take this research that forms the picture of society on which government policy is based, not to mention the general public, as being simply objective truth. (Nielsen 2014)

In order to clarify where social science stands on overnights and shared parenting for infants and toddlers, a February 2014 paper published in the prestigious American Psychological Association’s peer-review journal, Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, with the endorsement of 110 of the world’s top authorities from 15 countries in attachment, early child development, and divorce, recommends that in normal circumstances, overnights and “shared parenting should be the norm for parenting plans for children of all ages, including very young children.”

The consensus report ends with a number of recommendations. Of particular note:

“We have no basis for rank ordering parents as primary or secondary in their importance to child development.” (p. 50)

“We recognize that many factors such as cultural norms and political considerations affect the type of custody policy that society deems as desirable. To the extent that policy and custody decisions seek to express scientific knowledge about child development, the analyses in this article should receive significant weight by legislators and decision makers.” p 59)

“1. Just as we encourage parents in intact families to share care of their children, we believe that the social science evidence on the development of healthy parent– child relationships, and the long-term benefits of healthy parent–child relationships, supports the view that shared parenting should be the norm for parenting plans for children of all ages, including very young children.“ (p 59)

“3. In general the results of the studies reviewed in this document are favorable to parenting plans that more evenly balance young children’s time between two homes. …Thus, to maximize children’s chances of having a good and secure relationship with each parent, we encourage both parents to maximize the time they spend with their children.” (p 59)

“4. Research on children’s overnights with fathers favors allowing children under four to be cared for at night by each parent rather than spending every night in the same home.” (p 59)

“6. There is no evidence to support postponing the introduction of regular and frequent involvement, including overnights, of both parents with their babies and toddlers.” (p 59)

In order to come to grips with the smoke and mirrors in the current family law conversation the below referenced studies are a must read for parents and decision makers.


Warshak R. A (2014) Social Science and Parenting Plans for Young Children: A Consensus Report. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, Vol. 20, No. 1, 46–67

Nielsen, L. (2014) Woozles: Their Role in Custody Law Reform, Parenting Plans, and Family Court. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law. (February 10, advance online publication. http://dx.doi.org/10-->.

I'm a mother but I've seen

I'm a mother but I've seen FATHERS who were FAR better parents than the mothers! I don't know when America will see this! Probably when they see every other injustice and crazy thing, when it's TOO LATE!



Dads are getting screwed by science

PERFECT POINT! Just because the mother has the uterus doesn't make her automatically the better parent. Half the time, these great dads aren't even given a fair shot! If they could, many of them would have carried the baby, it's just not how science works. My stepson is 29months old now, I've been in his life since he was 10m old... His father is far superior as a parent than the mother yet he only got 25% custody in the beginning (oh, but now we have 60%). This little boy yearned for his father all the time from the very beginning, but those aren't the things judges and mediators see... they read a piece of paper and make horrible decisions based on hearsay and a sympathy for a crying mother. Science shouldn't determine the better parent. It's really sad.

Dads are not getting screwed

That post is fascinating. The whole point is that the science is not about mother or father, but a primary caregiver to whom the child can attach. This can be either Mum or Dad, but in very young children, tends to be the mother by very nature of the fact that women breast feed. Any other argument is about the needs of men/fathers, and not the scientifically proven needs of the child, further showing the selfish nature of such Dads who demand that "their" needs be met.

Look at the statistics of

Look at the statistics of limited parental involvement from the father. Many of these children act out in ways similar to abused children.

for a good time call #$@%! is what we were talking about here.

For a good time call ________ , is what we were talking about here, it is that kind of acting out kids, even though we don't want to talk about that here lest we discuss something cut a little too close to the bone liz society:

I am emotionally supported by your posts here as I learn to deal with harsh confrontations which eventually form realities like the mountains of our mind. Good Stuff here Dr. Emery.

Thank-you with tears for this age old battle.

My Daughter's Dad and every other name you can ascribe to a good non-custodial Father

Parenting may not be 100%

Parenting may not be 100% equal, 100% of the time but why put limitations on what a non custodial parent can and can't do with their child? I believe in the old saying, "It takes a village to raise a child." So why are we now putting restrictions on PARENTAL involvement? I guess the courts aren't used to addressing non custodial parents who actually WANT a relationship with their children. We want to fry "deadbeat" parents who skip out on child support or leave their kids waiting with bags packed because they decided at the last minute to take their new gal pal to the beach for the weekend but when the non custodial parent WANTS to spend more time with their children, it's not possible because the bond with the mother is more important?? The main reason fathers aren't fulfilling their responsibilities isn't because they were deadbeats from their child's birth. MOST were actually very loving and devoted fathers until their bonds were severed by American "justice"! How much bonding can anyone get seeing their child 4 days/month? Not to mention that much of that time is spent sleeping and commuting. If a fit non custodial parent wants to be involved in their child's life, LET HIM/HER! Stop the excuses! I have yet to see a child who visited with their fit parent so much that it caused the child emotional harm. The OPPOSITE is true!

Parenting may not be 100%-MY OPINION

I don't agree. I understand you point and I believe good and loving dads and moms have to be involve in their babies life. But my daughter's father is constantly telling me: "I'm a good dad because I didn't run when I got you pregnant. The law says equal rights so I want 50/50"

Is that a good dad? comparing himself with the crap biological fathers?

Asking for child support to the mother? lying in the affidavit so you get not to pay?. Moving to the best condo with a male single friend instead of finding an older apartment or one with less amenities but with a space for the baby? Naaaa...come on...
It's very easy dress the baby out, take her to the park and sell the picture of a loving dad.
Not everything that shines is gold. I have learnt that with a huge pain.

Thank you,

Cafeful Consideration

Anonymous wrote:
I don't agree. I understand you point and I believe good and loving dads and moms have to be involve in their babies life. But my daughter's father is constantly telling me: "I'm a good dad because I didn't run when I got you pregnant. The law says equal rights so I want 50/50"

Is that a good dad? comparing himself with the crap biological fathers?

Asking for child support to the mother? lying in the affidavit so you get not to pay?. Moving to the best condo with a male single friend instead of finding an older apartment or one with less amenities but with a space for the baby? Naaaa...come on...
It's very easy dress the baby out, take her to the park and sell the picture of a loving dad.
Not everything that shines is gold. I have learnt that with a huge pain.

Thank you,

I completely agree L. NOt everything that shines is Gold, and my childrens father does an excellent job of manipulating everyone around him, just as he did to me in our relationship, to think hes this "Dad of the year!" You know what, 50/50 physical should be a discussion when the child can get involved. As an adult can you imagine living in two differents homes so often? Back and forth even just in a weeks time would be stressful. Not to mention, children thrive on routines and consistancy, how can you even begin to make a routine with your child just to have them torn from your home at the end of each week? Can you imagine trying to potty train a two year old? C'mon. Being in this situation currently where my childrens father wants 50/50 yet shows no evidence that he could handle it puts this discussion a little to close for comfort. When family dynamics was more traditional, with a father in majority of homes and split parenting was few and far between, even THEN the fathers worked, and the mothers nurtured. And That was the general Consensus. Even now if the Mother provides and The father nurtures....generally when children are young there is a primary and a secondary even in "traditionally"- structured homes. This Doesnt mean my children dont love their father, or that i am more important as their mother. It simply means at this developmental stage in their life, split custody as in 50/50 physical should be very very carefully considered and all factors should be involved. including age, changes going on in each home, and how the home was ran prior to the split of the parents.


I wonder if Katie is

I wonder if Katie is suggesting fathers give gifts at the same time there is a transfer or exchange of custody of a child? And Katie, can you give me a reference that supports the dismissal of the non-custodial parent's rights so i can understand better the term exhaltation as it applies. I think gender studies are at the core of this matter.

Custody arrangements for very young children

I am a mother with a 23 month old and a ten month old. When my youngest was two weeks old, their father walked out. We were living away from our country of residence and I brought the father back home (he is of the same nationality), thinking that he was mentally ill (amongst other things). He has seen the children three times in the nearly 9 months we have been in our home country.

What is nearly never discussed in these forums is what to do when fathers are just not interested. I would give anything to have the best for my children (as I venture to say would most mothers) but if one party is not willing, then this becomes impossible. I think that the added layer with custody issues and small children is that couples who separate with children this young usually either have an exceptionally good reason to go separate ways and/or there is abuse involved. For mothers to leave with tiny tots is virtually impossible, and fathers who leave were generally not interested in the little ones to begin with, or they would have tried to stay and make things work. These sorts of break-ups often involve sociopaths, and are extremely complicated. I cannot imagine any child wanting to be ferried backwards and forwards between carers, and even without contact between the parents, believe that letters, and stories and even podcasts/tapes so that the child can hear the other parent's voice would be sufficient, without traumatising the carer (usually the mother) any further, and without direct harm to the children in the long-term.

I have found a serious dearth of expert advice on the topic, and really struggled with how to manage my own situation until it became clear that the children's father has absolutely no interest in his own children.

Hi, you sound very much of

Hi, you sound very much of what I have gone through with my toddler. I was wondering - where did you find really good materials or experts to find solutions to your situation? My toddler sees his dad once or twice a month and has severe behaviour problems each time dad visits. Simply would like to help my child as best as possible.

Thank you.

Help your child

Pay very close attention to what the non custodial parent is saying to the child. My son's father told him he (the father) would die if my son did not come live with him. This caused severe emotional problems as my son believed it to be literal. I found out when my son told me he could not live with me anymore because his father would die.I showed him that was not true.His father was say things about me that my son knew to be false. He was afraid to tell his dad to stop; he did not want to hear it. He acted out.
Talk to your child. Do not put words in his / her mouth, but hear what they are telling you. "What happened today to put you in a bad mood?" - Not "What did they do to you?"
Never make the other parent out to be more or less. If mom /dad makes promises they do not keep allow the child to see it. Do not keep the promise for them to make the child feel better. It only sets them up for disappointment later. This requires you to look at the other person as a parent and not your ex.
We went to a neuropsychiatrist to learn to deal with the issues caused by his father. I followed the above advice given.


My ex left my daugther and I when she was only one. At first he tried to see her but over time he disappeared. The last time she saw him, she was 5 and she is now 26. The visits he had with her were unpleasant for her because she was so small and I was still nursing her. She missed me and I think he was too immature to wait out that period. From 3 on, he only saw her twice so when he did visit her, she was not bonded to him at all. She didn't remember a time when he lived with us or the earlier visits. I am proud to say I raised her completely alone and she is a healthy and whole adult who has her masters degree and works with children with disabilities. She has a wonderful also healthy fiance who cherishes her. I've questioned her over and over, did you miss not having a father. Her answer is always the same: NO! I never dated while raising her because I told myself in the beginning that if her dad were not going to be here, I had to be the best mother I could be. It was tough, we were broke a lot and I always had daycare issues. But we made it. I am engaged to be married too to a wonderful man who seems to love my daughter. He has healed any remaining wounds but there really were not many.

Am I damaging my daughter?


I would appreciate some advise please? I have a 19 month old daughter and I am raising her pretty much on my own. Her father and I separated when she was just 2 months old, however he did visit her frequently. Once she was a year old, and I finished nursing her, he wanted to have her stay over at his place every second weekend. I have agreed to this as I have felt that it would be important for her father to spend some time with her. However, I have recently started to wonder if this is actually causing her more harm than good and if this is affecting her psychologically in some way. She usually goes quite happily with him, however once she is back with me she is somewhat subdued for a while.

I really would appreciate if you can offer me some advise if you beleive that she is too young for these overnight visits and if they are in fact damaging her. Thanking you in advance.

Overnights for babies

Dear Alexandra,

If you live in certain countries, access can be forced, even if you don't offer it. The thinking a few years back, in part due to some studies, and in part due to some pretty heavy lobbying by angry men's groups, was that kids, no matter what their age, were better off knowing and spending time with each parent.

More recent research seems to indicate that long separations from the primary carer, at least until the age of 2, are not ideal. This is said with the understanding that many children already attend daycare before the age of 2, but more specifically, I understand that overnights before the age of 2 are not ideal, and to be avoided if possible.

Short, frequent visits (time-consuming and arduous, particularly if a relationship was abusive) are held up to be the ideal for littlies, from all the reading I have done. This also gives some comfort to primary carers who have concerns about the care provided- older kids can communicate their needs, and, to a limited extent, communicate limited information.

With all of that said, the primary cater can expect a lot of fall-out emotionally. I have two kids, and the aggression expressed by the older toddler post-visit was actually dangerous to the little one, and has had to be very carefully monitored and managed. Seek help. Child psychologists have provided invaluable tips. Become really good not only at talking with your little one, but as their speech improves (and even before!) actively listening. Take cues and always give lots of cuddles. This may sound obvious, and it is exhausting, but these little ones grieve/mourn/ yearn the same way that adults do- they just don't have words for it yet. Fall- out from visits can last up to a week.

Good luck- I'm no expert, but was baffled by the lack of info on this topic, given how frequently it must happen, aand how complicated- and exhausting- it all is. Hope that this helps- I can post some links later to substantiate if that is helpful!

Hello, You said: "More recent

You said:
"More recent research seems to indicate that long separations from the primary carer, at least until the age of 2, are not ideal"
Could I bother you asking where can I find those research.

Thank you!

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Robert Emery, Ph.D., is professor of psychology at the University of Virginia and the author of The Truth about Children and Divorce.


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