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Why shared custody is beneficial for infants

The decision to divorce when you have an infant is usually an especially heart-wrenching choice. However, some couples determine that it's best for them and their family to go their separate ways even if they have a new baby.

In the past, it was often assumed that it was best for mothers to have sole custody of an infant. Studies have shown, however, that this isn't necessarily what's best for the baby, and that infants can, in fact, benefit when both their mother and father are involved in their lives.

Unfortunately, not all judges' views have evolved on the matter. Too many still believe common misconceptions about infant custody arrangements. Let's look at a couple of those misconceptions and the reality.

Shared custody interferes with an infant's need to bond to a primary caregiver

According to the so-called "attachment theory," the strength and quality of a baby's attachment to their primary caregiver impact their emotional and social development. This theory was often used to argue that the baby of a divorced couple should remain with the mother.

However, more recent research has shown that babies can and should bond with both parents. In fact, new fathers are more frequently taking paternity leave so that they can have time to bond with their new children just as the mothers do.

An infant's need for consistency requires primary custody by one parent

Certainly, consistent eating, sleeping and play schedules are important for a baby. However, that doesn't mean that both parents can't maintain a consistent schedule across two homes. Consistency shouldn't come at the cost of limiting one parent's involvement (usually the father's) in a baby's life. It's typically best for the child when both parents know their routine and are involved in all aspects of caring for an infant.

Developing a custody schedule and parenting plan for an infant can pose challenges that parents with older children don't face. It's best when parents can work together, with the help of their attorneys, to develop a schedule with the best interests of their baby in mind. You're going to have many years of co-parenting ahead of you, so if you can start off on the right track by sharing in your child's early months in the world, you'll all be better for it.

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