The tendency of most courts today (in most states) leans 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 day time 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 breast feeding, and the need for a stable environment (one primary home) for the first critical years.

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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 over time 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).


About Alice R. Berkowitz

Dr. Alice R. Berkowitz has been in practice as a Clinical and Forensic Psychologist since 1986. Her psychotherapy practice is currently located in Beverly Hills, California, after over 28 years at the prestigious Cedars-Sinai Medical Office Towers in Los Angeles, California.

Serving a wide variety of clientele, Berkowitz sees many high profile personalities in the Los Angeles area, is certified as an addiction specialist and travels doing consultations all over the country. Berkowitz is also trained as a neuropsychologist, and is well versed in the effects of addiction on the different areas of the brain.

In addition to her work as a clinical psychologist, Berkowitz has also worked as a Child Custody Evaluator, Expert Witness, Mediator and Reunification Therapist in Family Court since 1986. Her areas of expertise are in the area of parental alienation, parenting plans, parenting training and coaching, dealing with high-conflict families, divorce coaching, conjoint therapy, domestic violence, substance abuse, reunification therapy, PTSD, parent-child relationships, child sexual abuse and allegations of alleged sexual abuse.