Any divorce case involving kids can be complicated. A custody case can be even more difficult, however, if your child is an infant. In the past, the courts automatically gave custody to the mother in cases involving infants. Today, however, the courts give each parent a fair chance of gaining custody. The courts will look at each parent’s relationship with the infant, home environment, income and many other factors to determine custody. The best situation for most families, however, is for the parents to create a custody arrangement without needing to involve a judge.
How Do You Make a Custody Agreement?
The California courts encourage parents to create their own parenting plans before handing the matter over to the courts. Creating your own plan can help your family avoid a lengthy and emotionally draining divorce trial. It can also help two parents compromise and figure out how to co-parent an infant post-divorce. A parenting plan consists of two parts: time-share and decision making. Time-share is a schedule of each parent’s time with the child. Decision making refers to the legal ability to make important decisions for the child, such as education, health care and religion.
You and your spouse must work together to create your parenting plan. It must be as detailed as possible, with a breakdown of each specific holiday and how you will both care for the infant. You can work together with an attorney to help you both create a suitable plan that works for both parties. A lawyer can also help you work through the unique factors your custody agreement will involve due to the young age of your infant. Once you have an agreement, you and your spouse must sign it and bring it to a judge. The judge should sign off on it, then you will file it with the court to become a custody order.
Popular Custody Arrangements for Infants
A custody arrangement involving an infant will be different from one involving older children. Infants are needier than older kids, with concerns such as breastfeeding, waking up at nights, teething and diaper changes. If you are breastfeeding your child, for example, you may need to start pumping or switch to formula so you and your co-parent can both spend time with the baby. Although each family is unique, couples in the past have found success by including a few key elements in their custody agreements.
- Maximizing parental time with the infant. Arrange your parenting time around each of your work schedules so that the infant is with one parent or the other most of the time.
- Splitting parenting time equally. Try to divide your time with the infant as evenly as possible, since contact with both parents is important for babies. This can help reduce the risk of separation anxiety.
- Going into overnight visits slowly. Consider having one parent consistently having the infant overnight while the other visits with the child during the day, at least until the infant gets older and is more adaptable.
- Making things consistent. No matter what type of arrangement you agree upon, try to keep your parenting times consistent. Infants can rely on and benefit from routines.
- Changing things as your child grows. Most parents find it beneficial to modify a custody order as the infant gets older and his or her needs change.
There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ custody agreement, especially where an infant is concerned. You and your co-parent will have to sit down, express your main concerns, look at each parent’s schedule and try to compromise on a plan that will be best for the child. Try to keep an open mind and remember that your child’s best interests are most important, even if that means sacrificing time so your infant can be with your ex-spouse more often. If you and your co-parent need assistance creating a parenting plan for an infant, work with a Los Angeles family law attorney.