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Question
Posted by: Doogie | 2008-12-15

Joint custody arrangement

About this time last year I found out that my wife had been cheating on me for some time - while we were getting divorced (after an unusually drunken night out - self pity party) she fell pregnant - we now have a 6 week old baby. I delayed the divorce proceedings to improve my rights as the father of the child and to provide support for the soon to be mother of my child, which has given me the opportunity to think the whole situation through. I have decided to continue with the divorce proceedings (including a paternity test - just in case) only in June 2009 so that we can both get used to the new parenting role - unfortunately I was in love with the person I thought she was, not who she is and I now view her and the relationship from a new perspective. Anyway I am hoping to get joint custody of our baby with a 50/50 arrangement - one week with her one week with me. Though not ideal, I believe that this type of custody arrangement could work - my question is, could the weekly change in environment have a negative impact on our baby - if we are conscious of keeping to the same routine and following the same rules in each of our homes - bearing in mind that from 07:00 to 17:30 our baby will be at a day-mother/creche?

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Our expert says:
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A paternity test is surely wise. I see no reason why a 50/50 sharing of custody of a child should cause any problems at all for the child. They are surprisingly resilient. and if the parents treat this as unremarkable, and resist any temptations to spar with each other via the child, no problems are to be expected. The same rules at each end is sensible --- not only for infants, but later on when it comes to duties, discipline, etc.
Purple is right about breadt-feeding as a factor in deciding WHEN to start such an arrangement.

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Our users say:
Posted by: Marinda | 2008-12-15

Hi Doogie,
Having gone through a similar thing such as your' s, let me just tell you that the courts are very reluctant on granting a joint custody arrangement as your baby is still very young, they prefer the child to be with the mother for as long as possible. Bearing in mind that the law has changed slightly with regards joint custody, but more than likely both parties will have to agree, but in your case your child is still very young. i suggest you contact a family advocate who can shed more light on the matter for you. good luck.

Reply to Marinda
Posted by: Purple | 2008-12-15

If your wife is breastfeeding, this just won' t be physically possible until the baby is much older.

Although expressing can help to maintain supply, if the baby is under 6 months, being apart from baby for a whole week is going to cause problems. The morning, evening, night and weekend feedings moms do get the milk levels up enough for expressing while working full day to be possible.

Up until a year, being apart for a week at a time will have a lesser effect on feeding than in the first 6 months as baby will be on solids, but still won' t be ideal.

Breastfeeding really is best as it will mean your child is sick less often and when she is sick will get better more quickly.

I don' t think you' ve really thought this through, as what you' re suggesting is the sort of naieve view people have of babies before the baby arrives. From what you' re saying, I think it would be a good guess for me to say that you aren' t involved much with the care of your baby currently. I doubt you' re up every few hours during the night for around an hour each time changing nappies, feeding, burping, rocking etc. Although some babies sleep through from around 4 months, most don' t do this reliably until they are of school going age - as in they' re around 6 years old. Breastfed babies need feeding through the night until they' re around 7 months old from a nutritional perspective.

Doing this would seriously hamper your babies sense of security and consistency which is so important. In order to develop a healthy sense of trust, babies and toddlers need to build a strong attachment to a care giver, and if baby is swapping between houses all the time, this won' t be possible. Most babies who live with mom and dad together go through separation anxiety at around 7 months until around 2 years old, where if mom is the primary care giver, they cry even when daddy and granny hold them. Yes, people go away for a night or two for work wihtout long lasting damage, but swapping homes and primary care givers for a week at a time is not hte same.

i have a couple of friends who divorced while pregnant or in the first few months after baby was born, and even where there is joint custody, the baby has lived wiht the mother. In the beginning baby has gone for visits of 2 or 3 hours at a time, or dad has come to the house for this time and mom has gone out. When baby was over 2 day visits on a saturday, sunday or both started happening, and overnights on weekends started from around age 4. I have one friend whose child went on holiday with dad for a week, but she was 5 by then.
I know one mom whose ex husband comes to the house twice a week and makes supper, batths the toddlers, reads the story and puts them to bed. She uses the time for gym and a class she attends and she gets home around 9 and he leaves. They plan to have this continue for as long as is possible. He has just started having alternate weekends with the children with him - the older one is 5 and the younger one is 3, but being a second child and having older sibling with helps with coping.

Things won' t be exactly the same in each household, with the babies upbringing, you will disagree on many things and the more vigilant parent will be in a panic most of the time apart from the baby that basic safety concerns are being considered - is the child in a car seat even for trips to the shop at the end of the block? are the cleaning products locked up, are there rubber corners on edges of glass tables, is there safety film on glass tables etc. Will s/he wait till 6 months before introducing solids, will he remember the correct dosage for medicines being given - people get it wrong eventhough its written on the bottle. One of you might believe in sleep training and the other in a family bed - how do you know the partner will stick to it?
An older child can cope with different rules in different homes e.g. mom doesn' t allow sweets except on weekends, but granny allows them after supper even on weeknights. A child of two won' t grasp that though. A baby won' t cope with sleep training in one house and being rocked to sleep in the other house - but who is going to stick to whose rules?

Baby won' t be starting with the day mother before she is 3 months old. With a day mother, baby does manage to cope, as each and every day with regularity the same person fetches them, they go to the same house, and they do the same things. However, this is a major adjustment for a baby, and they take a while to settle, and if they swap between houses every week, it' s just going to add to how long the settling takes. Most babies take up to two weeks to settle, and if they take longer, you might get asked to remove your baby because they can' t cope with a childcare environment - I know someone this happened to, but it turned out that the environment was wrong for the baby, and after a months break and a start at a new day mother she settled in two weeks.

I hope you do manage to come to some sort of arrangement, but as a mother I can tell you that with a 6 week old baby, one week in each house just isn' t practical and certainly isn' t desirable from a developmental point of view. I' m sorry I sound so harsh.

Reply to Purple

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