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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.

custody

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.

Custody

whatmatters wrote:
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.

References

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 am a first time mom with a

I am a first time mom with a 9 month old son. His father was my ex. It was a VERY verbally abusive relationship and there was physical violence (pushing-good luck trying to get a restraining order for that!), nonetheless it was psychologically damaging. I was told many times, "I pray to God this baby isn't mine...I'm embarrassed you are the mother of this child." I was called the B and C words many times.

My son was born in Chicago. We met while living together in Charlotte, NC. I moved home to Chicago to guarantee any legislation would be handled in my home state. He "moved here for us, to be a family," but when on Match.com just 6 days after moving here, and lying about even moving! I had no idea he actually moved here.

Present day, he is DEMANDING 50/50 everything! My son does not sleep well at all! He is exclusively breastfed and was born 3.5 wks early due to all of the stress I suffered. He was in the NICU for 4 days.

Dad lives 25 miles away from us, and with traffic that can be 1.5hrs..each way! How is this fair to a BABY??! Dad refuses to move close, and doesn't even want to stay in IL. But bc "dad's have rights" even if they are scumbags, my son is suffering.

I 100% want him involved, but do not under any circumstances see how shuffling a baby, or child of any age back and forth.

This study is flawed. I don't by it. Let them observe my insomniac son, who I'm trying my hardest to get in a routine, only to have it deliberately messed up bc dad blatantly says, "you do what you do, we do it MY way when he's with me."

My son is the losing party, screw dads rights. Dads need to put the well being of the child first and sometimes that is making a sacrifice. Moms do it too, but our sacrifices are more like never sleeping more than 5hrs straight in over a year bc of pregnancy and a screaming baby.

My youngest son has been

My youngest son has been shared by his father and I 50/50 for the past 3 years. He was 6 months old when we separated. His father and I work very hard to keep consistency between the two homes communicating regularly about what we each do so the other can replicate. I dont think your situation is healthy for your child because his father refuses to put his childs needs before his own. He want to be "right" instead of doing things right for his child. 50/50 custody only works for parents who have a good relationship if only for the sake of their children.

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!

YES!

YES!

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.

I had hoped to get some

I had hoped to get some clarity on what is best for my Grandson by reading these posts, but mostly what I hear is a lot of opinion based on individual experiences.

In my experience, it is usually a good sign that the Mom is the primary attachment if she breast feeds. However, these days many women do not breast feed. I adopted my son at birth, and went to an unbelievable amount of trouble and effort to breast feed him. We have an amazing attachment. (He is now 24.) Along the way, however, I have met many women who have (in my opinion) a perverted attitude toward their breasts and their bodies, and have gone to great lengths to create excuses for their "inability" to breast feed, "no matter how hard they try." One of those is the mother of my grandson.

My Grandson was conceived out of wedlock, early in a dating relationship, and my son and his girlfriend agreed to have the baby and give it their best effort to make it work. During most of the pregnancy, and for months 2 through 19, my son, his girlfriend, and eventually the baby, lived with my husband and me. My son has learning disabilities and has been unemployed most of this time, and he has been the primary caregiver--the bather, the poopie-changer, the one who gets up in the middle of the night. He is the one my Grandson goes to when he is sick or exhausted and crying inconsolably.

Two months ago, this young couple split. The breakup was initiated by my son, so the girlfriend is the so-called aggrieved party. While my son has continued to care for the baby during the day, and we have more or less split overnights evenly, everyone assumes that the mother is the primary caregiver. Family and friends have even encouraged her to file for child support, and the sharing schedule is a frequent source of bad feelings between the parents, as the mother feels she is "owed" first choice on days, nights, times, and last minute changes because "she is the mother" and has been forced into single motherhood.

Reading all these comments leaves me wondering if shared custody is best for my Grandson, of if in fact my son should be seeking primary custody. This of course would break his mother's heart, and turn her family against my son and us, which would be terrible for the baby. Really, isn't there some really clear research on this subject?

The study cited in the article above measured reduced attachment to the mother. Were there control groups that included intact families where the level of marital stress mirrored the tensions in the groups with shared custody? There are many factors that could explain reduced attachment in addition to shared custody overnights vs. shared custody without overnights. Maybe Dads who do not push for overnights are less connected to/involved with their children, and this accounts for a stronger attachment to the mother, for example.

I hope there will be more, longer, larger studies on this subject. Babies are too precious for there not be be better science on this subject.

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.
Sincerely,

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,
L

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,
L

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.

-L2

How about all of the business

How about all of the business travelers...the road warriors who spend 5 days on the road? Its HELL..why do it to a baby?! Or any child? It messes up sleep, kills a routine. Has anyone ever heard of a traveling business person (I mean one who travels EVERY week) actually like it?! NO, bc it sucks! Its miserable. If adults find it stressful imagine how it is felt my a small child.

I am going through a nasty custody with my 9 month..since he was 4 wks. Not fun.I can't believe people don't have more common sense. In my case I am breastfeeding, but daddy was ordered to get him a few hrs 3 days a week! We like over 45 min away. And don't any dare say "breastfeeding is an excuse to keep the baby away from dad." Look at the ingredients in formula. #1 is CORN SYRUP. That is child abuse. Not a mom wanting to do whats right and natural for her baby, even if that means less time with dad. Oh well, does it really matter if a baby can't even walk, sit up or even lift his head? They should probably be safe at home, no travel.

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.

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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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