Heymann & Fletcher

Study could lead to shift in New Jersey parenting time cases

Most family courts approach custody cases with the presumption that children are best served by having the chance to form a close bond with both parents. However, when a child is very young, many courts still believe that the bulk of parenting time should remain with the mother. This approach is based in decades of research that supports the notion that babies have a closer bond with their mothers than their fathers. New research may lead to changes in how visitation is awarded, especially for New Jersey fathers who want to spend more time with their young children.

The study looked at the parent-child relationship between more than 100 college students whose parents separated before the kids were 3 years old. Researchers asked the participants and their parents to outline the duration and nature of visits between the children and their fathers. What was revealed was a pattern in which children who had overnight visits with their fathers had a closer bond with both parents as young adults.

That may be based on the bonding that takes place when a parent of either gender spends time providing care for the needs of an infant. The process of caring for a very young child prompts a close connection with that child. It may be that fathers who are denied the chance to provide that care are at something of a deficit when it comes to remaining close to their child as he or she ages. Interestingly, the study also found that kids who spent plenty of time with their fathers at a young age reported being closer to their mothers, as well. That may be because having small breaks from providing daily care can help mothers achieve a sense of balance, which promotes a happier household.

For New Jersey fathers who are seeking more parenting time with their young children, this study and similar research could help in court. Being able to provide scientific research that supports one's legal argument can help sway a judge to rule in one's favor. In terms of larger child custody statistics, these types of studies could have an impact on how courts address fathers' rights in cases across the nation.  

Source: U.S. News & World Report, "Sleepovers With Dad Can Be a Win-Win After Divorce", Robert Preidt, Feb. 3, 2017

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