Should fathers be awarded overnight visits with infants?

Maintaining a healthy paternal bond with an infant is necessary for the child’s wellbeing, and this includes overnight visits.

Losing a close relationship with a baby or toddler after a divorce can be devastating for both parent and child. California family law recognizes the importance of allowing the father and the mother to spend enough time with the child to maintain a healthy bond. Even so, in child custody cases, fathers often are not awarded as much time as mothers are when the child is an infant.

According to Psychology Today, restricting the father's time with the baby by denying overnight visitation may be bad for the child's developmental well-being, as well as damaging the early bond with the father that is necessary. Research indicates that the ability to adjust and form attachments depends on shared parenting.

Ability to adjust depends on secure relationships

Psychology Today notes that children begin forming attachments with primary caregivers in infancy. When one of these relationships suddenly changes, a baby has no way to make sense of the loss. Any reduction in the amount of time spent with the father can cause anxiety or depression, and the lack of coping skills may accentuate these reactions further.

Early routines should be the guide

Experts recommend a review of the father's role in the infant's life during the time leading up to the divorce to determine how best to maintain the relationship. Because the routines that were created then were part of the stability of the child's life, continuing them as closely as possible is essential to his or her emotional well-being.

The activities that take place in the evening, during the night and first thing in the morning offer important opportunities for parents to nurture and soothe an infant. For example, bedtime and early mornings are ideal for snuggling, which provides a sense of security and helps the child develop a trusting relationship with the parent.

Creating a schedule that works

While many aspects of working out the visitation schedule with an infant may be similar to those developed for older children, a breastfeeding schedule may make overnight visits challenging for the mother. In this matter, the father should have an attitude of respect for the mother's dedication to this activity, while the mother should recognize the importance of the infant's need for the father. If both parents are committed to the best interests of the child, it may become easier for them to co-parent more effectively.

When the hard feelings that often accompany a divorce make it difficult for parents to cooperate, an attorney may be able to provide mediation so that they are able to set their personal feelings aside and come to a healthy agreement.