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Is divorce easier on infants?

It may be natural to think infants whose parents are divorcing have an easier time of things. In one way, that can be true because they grow up with their parents living apart. These children know nothing else.

In another way, infants can be hit just as hard as older children, if not harder, especially if the parenting plan adheres to what are increasingly outdated norms.

An "old" way of thinking

Many custody agreements used to call for infants to be in the care of only one parent, usually the mother, most or all of the time. Breastfeeding was one reason. Another was to give the infant a stable and predictable routine and environment. Meanwhile, the father was expected to focus on financially supporting the child.

The current way of thinking

Quite a few modern parenting plans do recognize the importance of stability and routine in an infant's life. At the same time, these plans take into consideration the opinions of co-parents and family law experts who have come to the forefront. Namely, that it helps everyone for both parents to be as involved in their infant's life as possible. That need not necessarily mean an infant goes back and forth between two houses every other week, although it can. In some cases, it means the infant has a primary home but the parent who does not live there visits often, perhaps every day or every other day, and spends some time there or takes the infant to his or her home for a portion of the day. The visiting co-parent gets to bathe, play with and perhaps feed the child. (And change the child's diaper too!)

With this approach, the infant gets to create a connection with both parents, not just one. It is also a natural, built-in way for a primary caregiver, who is often overwhelmed, to get breaks and maintain balance in life. If there are older children in the family, this setup also emphasizes to them that both of their parents are in the baby's life.

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