There is a lot of information available with advice and guidelines regarding the right time to begin sharing custody of your child. Here is a short overview of the advice available so that you and your ex-partner can make decisions that help your child stay happy and secure even though you are no longer living together as a couple.
Birth to 2 Years
Divorce is always hard, but when you’ve got children and custody issues it’s sometimes difficult to make rational decisions about your children and although it’s hard for the parent that leaves the matrimonial home insisting on having a young baby stay with you for visits can be a mistake.
Studies in Australia have shown that young babies who are taken away from their mom’s for overnight stays show signs of stress and the Australian Association for Infant Mental Health has issued guidelines stating that overnight visits should be avoided until babies are two years old.
At this age it is best for the parent who does not have custody to make short, frequent visits, so that a bond is developed without separating the child from either mom or dad over long periods.
2 to 3 Years
Once the child has reached the age of two, an overnight stay can be introduced. The child is still too small for whole weekends, because as a toddler, he or she is still will still depend on whomever is the main care giver, but they will benefit from spending more time with the parent they don’t live with.
3 to 5 Years
Now is the time that a child can spend more time away from their own home and perhaps spend the whole of the weekend with Mom or Dad. They may still want contact with home, so make sure that they are allowed to make a phone call, or use Skype to communicate.
6 to 10 years
Now your child is older, they should be able to spend weeks with Mom or Dad in the summer, as well as passing whole weekends. They should still have frequent contact with the parent they don’t live with, preferably more than once a week and both parents should be showing an interest in school or club events, so that your child knows that both his or her parents are giving their support. Children coming up to ten will adapt to shared custody as long as this does not interfere with their schooling or friends.
10 to 12 years
You should now be at the stage where your child feels comfortable spending more than weekends away from home. You may also be able to take holidays together. Communicating with either Mom or Dad back home may still be important, so make sure your child is able to keep in contact. Shared custody arrangements should still continue as children benefit from both parents being involved in their daily routine.
Teens to 18
Your child is now growing up and becoming more independent. You might find you need to be more flexible at this time about visits as your child wants to spend some time at the weekends with friends, or they may have to spend the time on their studies and days out become more difficult to organise. You should still maintain weekday contact and keep in touch using messaging or phone calls is a good idea at this stage. If you have shared custody be prepared for your child to want more autonomy and less dependency.
Being resentful and angry will make your child anxious and unhappy and it may well be that once they are old enough they won’t want to spend much time with you at all.
If you and your ex have been able to maintain a cordial relationship through your divorce and over the years, your child will benefit because they will have a warm, stable relationship with both parents, despite the fact that you are no longer together. Consistency, love and care is what helps children to thrive and develop into happy secure adults, so try and create that atmosphere by putting their needs first.