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Q: VISITATION PLANS FOR NON-CUSTODIALPARENT OF INFANT ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   1 Comment )
Category: Family and Home > Parenting
Asked by: gerda-ga
List Price: $100.00
Posted: 10 Aug 2006 22:48 PDT
Expires: 09 Sep 2006 22:48 PDT
Question ID: 754914

I would like to find information from credible professional sources on
infant bonding and development which may be used in court for a
custody case.

In this case the mother is a medical professional with a 3 month old
infant.  The mother has been living with her parents since just prior
to the birth and plans to live there for at least another year.  She
has high recommendations from associates and family about her
parenting. Her parents provide for the infant's care while the mother
is at work.

The father of the child presents as a very loving father with his
infant daughter but appears to have an active problem with excessive
drinking which he denies.  He has a new partner. He states he lives
with his parents but the mother of the child believes he actually
lives with his new partner.

The father's first choice is to have 50/50 custody with the baby
spending one full week at a time with each parent.  His second choice
is for the baby to spend a full weekend with him each week (or even
every other week).  He believes this is important for him to be able
to bond with his child.

The mother feels strongly that overnights are not appropriate at this
young age.  She fears his drinking problems will endanger her daughter
if the father has extended periods of responsibility.

The mother's preference for visitation is for visitation to be 2-4
hours at a time and 2-3 times per week.  She prefers for the visits to
be during the hours she is working and the father is not working. 
(She works 12-hour shifts three times per week) She believes limiting
the frequency of caretaker transitions is important and that such a
plan allows the father to have time without taking away time with the
mother.  She would also like to be able to maintain a fairly
consistent sleep/play/feeding schedule that has her daughter going to
bed in the same place each night for the first two years.  She is
willing to let the father come to her home to help with the bedtime
routine on the days of his visits. She further believes
the child needs to bond with a primary caretaker to develop and
maintain trust during the various bonding cycles while having frequent
shorter contacts with the non-custodial parent to promote bonding with
him.  The mother also has some concerns about whether a live-in
partner can have detrimental effects with the bonding process if the
visitations are for 2-3 days at a time.

I'd like to find out if there is substantial data from credible
professional sources that promotes either position.  The perspective
I'm looking for is solely the best interest of the child.  One should
assume the visitation schedule will be modified sometime between the
ages of two and five years of age.

The specific questions are:

1.  All other facts aside, is there strong evidence that frequent
short visits for the non-custodial parent is better for infants and
toddlers than longer less frequent visits?

2.  Is there evidence to support the mother's position about the
importance of a consistent schedule and regular bedtime and location
for the first two years?

3.  Is there any legitimate concern about bonding confusion with new
live-in partners being introduced before there is a committed
long-term relationship?

Request for Question Clarification by cynthia-ga on 13 Aug 2006 00:12 PDT
I have read this question several times and am moved to ask, what is
your relationship to this case? Are you the court assigned guardian to
the child? An attorney? Which side?

I must admit, you have managed to remain impartial/unbiased in the
asking of your question, I can't tell what side you're on!

Not that it matters, I'm curious is all, --fascinating question, and
it might give a bit more insight to get a Researcher to take the
question on.

Clarification of Question by gerda-ga on 14 Aug 2006 10:38 PDT
I am actually the maternal grandmother.  We're really interested in
what's best for our grand-daughter even if it isn't what makes us most

Clarification of Question by gerda-ga on 14 Aug 2006 18:27 PDT
An independent source claiming to be quoting a child psychologist told
me today that "many" child psychologists consider anything more than
short visits to be inappropriate for infants and children under the
age of 1-2 years.  This source also expressed the opinion that
depending on the temperment of the child, visits should be slowly
extended during the 2nd year as parents work toward eventual overnight
visits rather than making abrupt changes based solely on age.  If a
credible and identifiable source could be found to support this (or
any another responsible viewpoint), this would be in line with what I
am looking for.

Request for Question Clarification by umiat-ga on 14 Aug 2006 22:15 PDT
I just want to reassure you that I am working on this for you!
Answered By: umiat-ga on 14 Aug 2006 23:45 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hello, gerda-ga! 

 I certainly understand your concerns and I am very impressed with
your desire to do what is best for your granddaughter.

 I have tried to find some helpful, authoritative literature for you.
While I was unable to find scholarly information which addressed every
aspect of your original question, I believe the following references
will provide the latest research concerning the impact of custodial
arrangements on infants.

 Some of the references express contradictory opinions, as might well
be expected. I suggest you simply use the recommendations as
guidelines as you weigh these very important decisions.

 While many of these papers focus on the non-custodial parent in a
"divorce" situation, I still believe the theories and research can be
applied in your daughter's case.

 I hope these references provide a good start. Let me know if I can be
of further assistance.


"Children's Responses to Divorce." J Am Board Fam Pract 14(3):178-183, 2001

"Infants and toddlers have little comprehension that a divorce has
occurred and so have no direct reaction. For this age-group the risks
are decreased interaction with the custodial parent and loss of
contact with the noncustodial parent, who can fade entirely from their

** "The child benefits from frequent, short visits with the
noncustodial parent that are designed not to disrupt the stable daily
routine and secure attachment to the custodial parent.[6]

"When the noncustodial father does stay involved, the mother is often
concerned that, lacking daily experience, the father does not know how
to care for the baby. Mothers must trust the noncustodial father at
least as much as they trust the teenage neighbor they hire to
baby-sit. The important issue is to keep the father involved."


The following letter is full of relevant advice and you should read it
in full. I don't want to try to excerpt any information.

Court," by Isabelle Fox, Ph.D.


From "Age Appropriate Visitation."

Infancy to Two-and-a-Half Years:
"Infancy, psychologists agree, is a time for building an attachment to
the primary caretaker. (Attachment to two primary caretakers, a mother
and father, is increasingly common, too.) The infant's developmental
task is to form trust in the environment. Long separations from the
primary caretaker can result in symptoms of depression and regression
and later may result in problems with separation and the ability to
form relationships."

"Toddlers are beginning to develop a sense of independence. They are
becoming aware of themselves and begin to speak and walk. They can use
symbols to comfort themselves, such as a picture of Mom or a toy she
gave them. Because the successful attainment of these developmental
tasks lays the foundation for secure and healthy children, parents
should design a schedule that fits a child's needs at this stage."

"The best schedule, say the experts, is short but frequent time with
the noncustodial parent: short because infants and toddlers can't
maintain the image of their primary caretaker for long and frequent to
enable them to bond with the noncustodial parent. Most psychologists
agree there should be no overnight visitation for very young

(If the above link simply takes you to the Medscape login page, copy
and paste the following search term in your browser and the article
link should pop up -

 Children's Responses to Divorce" from Journal of the American Board
of Family Practice


CHILD." William  F.  Hodges, Ph.D., Department of Psychology,
University of Colorado. Boulder, CO 80309-0345 The following are
adapted from Hodges, W. F. (1991). Interventions for Children of
Divorce: Custody, Access, and Psychotherapy, (2nd Edition), New York:
John Wiley.

Excerpt specific to infants (please read entire paper for other age groups)

Infancy (birth to 6 months of age). 

"For infants from birth to six months, the visitation pattern
recommended is for predictability and frequency. The more frequently
the noncustodial parent can be available, the longer the duration
should be. For infants who can only be visited once or twice a week,
visitation should not exceed one or two hours. Infants visited every
day or every other day can develop attachments to the noncustodial
parents that can maintain their
security. Stability of child care location should be maintained.
Subject to the needs and abilities of the custodial and noncustodial
parents, such visitation could be for one hour or part of a day.

* Overnight visits are likely to not be in the child's best interests.
Infants should have eating and sleeping arrangements as stable as

"Infancy (6 months to 18 months). If the child, six to twelve months
of age, has had little prior contact with the noncustodial parent,
visitation should be initially short and frequent to provide
familiarity and comfort to the infant. As for younger infants, short
visits of one to three hours are recommended if frequency of visits is
low. If contact is regular and frequent, the child can handle
visitation that lasts part or most of a day. The noncustodial parent
should recognize that the infant of this age needs predictability and
familiarity. Visitation will work best when visitation occurs in the
same location every time.

* Overnight visits should be considered less than desirable and used
only when other considerations are more important (e.g., bonding
between the child and noncustodial parent or long distance) and some
instability to the child is worth the trade-off.

"Frequency of visitation for infants should vary according to the
noncustodial parents sensitivity to infant needs, both physiological
and psychological. The infant needs to be fed, warm and comfortable
and almost all parents recognize those needs. The infant needs to be
held, talked to, stroked and played with and these are psychological
needs to which some parents are less sensitive.

"The temperament of the child may also help determine frequency and
duration of visits. An easy child will handle liberal visitations. A
slow-to-warm-up child may need a slower transition to more frequent
and longer visitations. A difficult infant may require less frequent
and shorter visitation."

(Read further...)


From "Shared Parenting Contact and Guidelines." Thirteenth Judicial Circuit.



"One of the most important considerations is for attachment with both
parents. It is important for visitation to provide opportunities to
establish a bond between the child and the parent. Generally,
frequency of visitation is given more consideration than duration of
visitation. Making up for less frequent visits by increasing the
length of time of visits is not recommended for infants (Hodges,
1991). Skafte (1985) recommended daily visits, but if this is
impractical, then visits should be spaced no more than two days apart.
Overnight visits are not generally recommended (Hodges, 1991;
Biringen, et al, 2002). There is research, however, to show that
overnight visits with the parent can occur, provided that the parent
has been a significant caretaker and a primary attachment figure
(Warshak, 2000). Suggested: Daily visits of 1 to 3 hours."

(Please read entire article.....


Developing Beneficial Parenting Plan Models for Children Following
Separation and Divorce.
Excerpted from the section:

II. Child Development and Divorce Research Relevant to Parenting Plans 

"Because of immature memory and poor sense of time, very young
children with interested and adequate fathers benefit from multiple
contacts with nonresident parents during each week to sustain and
consolidate the deepening attachment, and to minimize separation
anxiety, just as do mothers. This is important because the loss of
important attachment relationships in childhood has been found to
cause a profound sense of loss and anxiety among young children and an
increased risk of severe depression in later life.

"One of the more sharply contested issues in custody and access
disputes has been whether infants can tolerate overnights away from
their primary caretakers, usually mothers, to spend night or weekend
time with their fathers. (22) Various writers and researchers
cautioned that any overnight time away from mothers before age three
(23) or age four (24) is harmful to the mother-infant attachment, and
therefore strongly recommended against overnights with fathers. No
empirical support has sustained these recommendations, including the
research of psychologists Judith Solomon and Carol George, (25) but
the prohibitions against overnights for young children with their
fathers, who are not strangers but a second important attachment
figure, remain central in popular thinking, custody evaluation
recommendations, and judicial decision-making. (26)

"More recently, empirical longitudinal research reported that no
detriment to children from birth to three years is associated with
overnights with fathers. (27) Mothers and fathers of those children
who had overnights reported fewer social and attention problems in
their children, and less withdrawn behavior among girls, compared to
those without overnights. Among children from age four to six,
overnights were associated with significantly fewer psychological
adjustment problems, when compared to those without overnights.
Consistency of schedule was a most important predictor of good
adjustment, as children with inconsistent schedules were reported by
mothers and fathers to have more social problems and internalizing


C. Father Access and Children?s Adjustment 

"Research assessing the extent of access and father involvement on
children?s adjustment following divorce gives ample evidence that when
children of different ages have involved fathers, they are more likely
to achieve better social and behavioral outcomes. With children from
birth to six years, higher levels of paternal involvement were
associated with better adaptive behavior skills, and for the four to
six year olds, better communication and socialization skills, compared
to those young children with less paternal involvement. (41)
Scroll down to read further sections:

D. Joint Physical and Sole Physical Custody Arrangements 

III. Co-Parental Relationships Following Divorce 

IV. Building Useful Parenting Plan Models 


From "The Importance of Parent-Child Relationships: What Attorneys
Need to Know About the Impact of Separation," by Kathryn Kuehnle and
Tracy Ellis. Florida Bar Journal. October, 2002. Volume LXXVI, No. 9

Maintaining Attachment Bonds:
"Most young infants are thought to form more than one attachment
bond.5 Generally, the mother and father have primary roles as
attachment figures early in an infant?s life.6 During their first year
of life, children may have two or three attachment figures, who are
usually family members or individuals closely involved in the child?s
care. These attachment figures are not equivalent, nor are they

"Infants tend to prefer a principle attachment figure for comfort and
security, but if the principle figure is not available, the infant is
likely to seek and derive comfort from other attachment figures, but
not from strangers. The attachment hierarchy may be determined by the
following set of factors: 1) how much time the infant spends with each
caretaker; 2) the quality of care each provides; 3) each caretaker?s
emotional investment in the child; and 4) the repeated presence across
time of the attachment figure in the child?s life." 7

"To ensure safety and security, close physical proximity to the
attachment figure is the set goal of the attachment system for very
young children. Infants and toddlers use physical contact with the
attachment figure as a secure base from which to explore and learn
about their world. In school-age children the availability of the
attachment figure, rather than the physical proximity, becomes the set
goal of the attachment system. This attachment behavioral system is no
less important than for infants or toddlers, in that school-age
children still are not competent to make decisions completely on their
own regarding their activities, supervision, or protection. Secure
attachments for both younger and older children are based on
children?s confidence in their primary caretakers as available,
responsive, and protective providers." 8


There is a very good interview on the following link that might prove helpful:

Council For Children Newsletter. Issue 3 Summer 2004

"I still believe that it is better not to transfer newborns from place
to place in the very early months, but even with an infant, a secure
attachment can form with consistent, frequent and relatively short
contact with the other parent (usually the one who cannot breastfeed).
For example, the other parent can spend time with the infant for one
to two hours, three or four times a week, simply holding, interacting
with and responding to the child. The specific hours of these "times"
can also be varied."

Read entire interview......


The following paper highlights various scenarious involving visitation
by the non-custodial parent. There is too much to excerpt and I am
leaving it up to you to decide what is most appropriate to your
situation. Please ignore the underlining in this web copy. This was
the only full article I could find online.

Read "Using child development research to make appropriate custody and
access decisions for young children." Family and Conciliation Courts
Review: Los Angeles; Jul 2000; Joan B Kelly: Michael E Lamb;


"The Role of the Father After Divorce," by Ross A. Thompson. The
Future of Children, 1994


You may purchase the following paper if you are interested:

"The Non-Custodial Parent and His Infant."


"Infants perceive divorce as a violation of the routines of everyday
life. They are forced to cope with the collapse of their most familiar
unit of caregiving frame, which is vital for proper growth and
development, which may cause developmental arrest or regression in the
infant. Although many factors, related to both parents and infant are
involved, this paper aims to describe the special needs of infants and
toddlers in relation to their non-custodial parent (usually the
father). Despite the dearth in empirical research data, there has been
a growing recognition among professionals of the vital role played by
the non-custodial parent in the postdivorce adjustment of the infant.
The paper refers to the empirical field research, mostly with older
children. To promote a better adjustment of an infant caught in the
midst of divorce, some guidelines for visitation arrangements are
suggested in view of the normal developmental milestones. Parental
conflict and other parental factors, which might influence the
non-custodial parent-infant relationship and are potentially hazardous
to a smooth and proper development, are also discussed briefly."


You might find a few interesting tidbits in here that you can apply to the future:

"CHILDREN?S BEST INTERESTS AFTER DIVORCE: A Guide for Mobility Assessment," By
Vikki Small. Masters of Counselling Psychology


 If I can clarify anything further, please don't hesitate to ask and I
will help if I can!



Search Strategy on Google and Google Scholar

infants AND visits from non-custodial parent
visitation AND infants AND divorce AND non-custodial
importance of infant stability and routine AND visitation OR custody 
non-custodial bonding with infant AND visitation
non-custodial parent AND infant visitation
psychology OR stability AND infant AND divorce OR non-custodial parent
frequent visits by non-custodial parent more beneficial
how important is routine for infants in custody or visitation

Clarification of Answer by umiat-ga on 14 Aug 2006 23:51 PDT
The following notation should be after the first referenced article,
not the third, where I mistakenly placed it. Please excuse me (the
link seems to work just fine, anyway)

This should be after the first article: (If the above link simply
takes you to the Medscape login page, copy and paste the following
search term in your browser and the article link should pop up - 
Children's Responses to Divorce" from Journal of the American Board of
Family Practice )

My apologies for any confusion!
gerda-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $15.00
Thank you for the very complete research. I will give high
recommendations for this service to others who need research help. 
You found wonderful sources I did not locate in my own hours of
searching on this topic.  I haven't read through them all yet but I am
pleased with what I've seen so far!

From: umiat-ga on 15 Aug 2006 21:21 PDT
I am so thankful my research was helpful. Your comments are very kind
and I appreciate your generous rating and tip. I wish you all the best
of luck moving foward.

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