In some ways, it can be easier to share custody of older children than it may be to share custody of younger children. Teenagers and older children who are already comfortable with their school routines often have well-established schedules of their own and may only require relatively minimal daily support and guidance from their parents.
Younger children, on the other hand, are at a very vulnerable point and may require far more support. Those who are not yet old enough to start kindergarten will have markedly different support and parenting needs than older children whose parents divorce or separate, for example.
Co-parents who consider the age-based needs of their youngest members will have an easier time creating a workable parenting plan that reflects their best interests. How can parents of small children fairly distribute their parental responsibilities with their co-parents?
Younger children require shorter parenting sessions
Visitation is easy to accommodate at any age, but a 50/50 or similar split of parenting time can be more of a challenge. It is hard for a child of any age to experience a protracted separation from their primary caregiver. However, infants and toddlers, in particular, may find such relationship disruptions to be extremely distressing. They may lack the sense of object permanence required to feel confident that their caregiver will come back in.
Therefore, overnight sessions often aren’t an option for the youngest children, and only one or maybe two nights away from the primary caregiver is usually the longest younger children should go. Those who are a few years older may be able to tolerate long weekends or a half weeks with either parent.
For some families, the best solution will be to include terms within a parenting plan that mature each year in relation to the needs of the child(ren). Other times, families may accept that they don’t know what the future needs of the child will be and will instead agree to renegotiate their schedule when the child matures and can tolerate longer visits.
Focus on the kids
The easiest way for parents to protect their children from the damage so often caused by divorce requires that parents make their children’s needs their top concern in their divorce proceedings.
Recognizing the unique needs of family members at every age can help adults create more effective parenting plans and better advocate for their children during custody proceedings. If you need to craft a parenting plan, don’t hesitate to communicate about your kids’ unique needs and concerns when you are working with an attorney. The more information that you provide, the better a lawyer will be able to personalize their guidance and assistance.