For a long time, child development specialists have disagreed on the role and place for overnights for non-custodial parents for children under the age of 4. Some have raised true concerns about the ability of a young child to bond when he or she has two homes instead of one. Now, a soon-to-be released article, tentatively titled:
Social Science and Parenting Plans for Young Children: A Consensus Report
Richard A. Warshak
University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center
This study appears to assume an absence of studies demonstrating any risks of overnight parenting time but does make a valid point about the ‘vulnerability’ of the father-child relationship if the father is not a significant factor in the child’s life at an early age. While the latter is an interesting and very good point, I have difficulty with the statement that there are no such studies. There are a couple of seminal studies, including those done by Jen McIntosh in Australia, that a child’s sense of security is clearly affected and that they behave differently if being bounced from home to home. Instead of blindly deciding that all three year olds would benefit from an equal overnight parenting time, it may be better to look closely at each child-and at each case and determine how the child reacts to such a situation. Likewise, instead of blindly assuming that no 12 month old should spend overnights away from home, it will be better to look at the relationship between the parents, the father’s level of commitment, and the child’s overall adjustment to the separation. There is no one-size-fits-all. This is why I do like the provisions of Minnesota Statute section 518.17 as amended; the Court has a role in determining the expanding of parenting time based on the child’s developmental age.