In Colorado and all other states across the country, it has long been established that the overriding factor in child custody determinations is what comports with an involved child’s best interests.

That is seldom a slam-dunk decision by a judge, given that a number of considerations often weigh in concerning the evaluation of a custodial parenting plan.

Those factors often, and centrally, encompass these following matters:

  • The relationship that the child has had with each parent over time
  • The arrest record of either parent, including a history of violence, weapons use or drugs
  • The child’s school schedule and interaction with friends and other family members
  • A parent’s demonstrated involvement with the child’s school, social and other activities

A new study conducted by researchers at the University of Virginia has just released findings in the Journal of Marriage and Family that indicate that a judge also needs to be focused on whether or not a child — especially an infant within the first year of life — is spending too much time away from a primary caregiver.

Researchers loosely define that as being one night or more a week spent with the non-primary caregiver in a shared custody arrangement. That is typically the father, though not always.

In an examination of more than 5,000 children, with follow-up interviews and in-home assessments conducted at later intervals, researchers say that evidence emerges indicating that infants that split evenings often exhibit insecurity and do not demonstrate optimal attachment to the primary caregiver.

The takeaway recommendation is this: At least in the earliest weeks and months of life, it is preferable that an infant’s overnight stays with a non-primary caregiver be limited to the fullest extent possible, with regular day contacts being encouraged.

The reason for that, says the study team, is evidence indicating that an infant’s strong attachment developed immediately with a primary caregiver and sustained throughout the first year correlates closely with an ability to develop healthy relationships throughout life.

Source: Medical Xpress, “Overnights away from home affect children’s attachments, study shows,” July 19, 2013