When it comes to child visitation, it is natural for both parents to want the most amount of parenting time possible. However, psychologists warn against merely dividing up days in a calendar year when creating a visitation schedule without first giving thought to the child’s age, temperament or psychological needs. Ignoring these factors, especially in infants, can result in unnecessary stress or even permanent psychological harm. This leaves many divorcing parents of infants — and courts — wondering how to come up with a fair but healthy visitation schedule for the child.
According to FamilyEducation, the ability for children to make transitions without adverse psychological effects increases with age. From infancy to the time a child is about two-and-a-half years old, children need ample time to bond with the primary caregiver. Infancy is a time during which children form trust and build their strongest attachments. Time-sharing schedules that involve long periods of separation from the primary caregiver can result in symptoms of regression and depression. In some children, it may lead to the inability for the child to develop meaningful relationships in the future.
Parents, when devising a visitation schedule, should consider their child’s developmental needs at such a young age. Though not ideal for the noncustodial parent, the best schedule, according to psychologists, includes short but frequent visitation time with the non-primary caregiver. The visitation time should be short because infants are unable to retain a picture of the primary caregiver for long, and frequent because the child still needs to develop a relationship with the noncustodial parent. The vast majority of psychologists agree that children between the ages of infancy and three-years-old should not have overnight visits with the noncustodial parent.
It is possible for parents to share the role of primary caregiver. In these situations, young children should have frequent daily contact with both parents. If both parents want overnight visits with the child, they should consider a concept called “nesting,” which involves the child remaining in a single home while the parents move back and forth.