Custody Battles: Shared Custody with Young Children
The tendency of most courts today, when it comes to custody battles in most states, lean towards 50/50 physical custody, with more emphasis on the mother-child bond, depending upon the age of the child.
If the child is an infant or under the age of three years old, there is often a step-up plan increasing the amount of visitation to the father (this has to do with overnights only) over the course of a couple of year period to 50/50. In non-high conflict situations, the father may have more daytime visitations during those years, with the young child returning to the mother’s home to sleep. The reason for this has to do with the critical bonding between mother and child during the first 3 1⁄2 years, the fact that mother probably will be breastfeeding, and the need for a stable environment (one primary home) for the first critical years.
This is not an anti-father statement, it is just based on the fact that the infant may be bonded to both parents, but for the first three or so years, the primary bond will be with mother. Attachment is critical at this age and the mother’s ability to read her infant’s (and young child’s) cues are critical for the child to have a sense of safety in the world.
Donald Winnicott, M.D. (1965) first coined the term “Maternal Preoccupation” to explain how the mother begins during pregnancy to become preoccupied (in a positive way) with her soon to be infant. According to Winnicott (1965, 1975, 1992), this carries on after birth and allows the mother to be particularly sensitive to her infant’s needs. She is able to read her newborn’s cries, and cue’s to create a “holding environment” for the growing baby. This holding environment along with “Good Enough Mothering” helps create a sense of safety overtime for the growing child. T. Berry Brazelton (1969, 1988, 1992, and 2006) shares Winnicott’s views on the importance of “the holding environment” and “good enough mothering” for the young child to have a sense of safety and “object constancy” (carrying the good enough mother inside).