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If you are in the unfortunate position of going through a divorce, or have recently separated from your partner, and have a young Child to try and care for, how is the Court likely to make an Order regarding Contact with the Minor Child?
On researching this, you would find a lot of information regarding children from the age of say 5 years and up. Now you’re in a position where your Child is not yet 5 years old, let’s say barely even a year old. How is the Court going to rule in favour of the best interests of this infant?
It is very important to understand that in this regard, there are no hard and fast rules. The Court will view each case separately and grant an Order that, in its view, is in the best interest of the Child.
One aspect that is very often forgotten, or possibly even overlooked is the principle of attachment. Of the two parents, to whom is the Minor Child is most attached? This person, in the eyes of the Child, is the most important person to that Child; however, this also places a large responsibility on this parent. Over and above the fact that this parent will more than likely be the primary care-giver to the Child and hold primary residence, the Child will completely trust this person – even more than the other parent. Therefore, if this parent encourages contact with the other parent from an early age, this would ease the transition of the Child getting used to visiting someone else, possibly away from the primary care-giver, i.e. unsupervised visit.
Such contact would however have to be phased in carefully as a very young Child will never grasp or understand why their parents who were once living together are now separated. The encouraging of contact with the other parent through vigilant phasing of contact, will allow the Child to adapt to spending time away from their favourite and primary care-giver.
Although such contact is not precisely structured or defined, there is a very basic guideline which has been followed in the past. As was mentioned above, there is no hard and fast rule of Law in this regard. This decision relies more on how involved the other (less favoured) parent has been in the Child’s life from the time of birth up until this point. This decision is also based on scientific facts and the psychological development of the Child. It is from this that the Court is able to make a decision on what is in the best interests of the Child.
So what is the basic outline of this ‘phased in’ contact? Weekly routine contact is essential, young children require structure. Without structure the Child will not develop a routine and therefore will not feel comfortable in the different environment.
If your Child is very young, say under the age of 2 years old, you will probably be looking at Contact of about 3 hours per weekend for the parent who is not living with the Child. This slowly increases so that a toddler will then look at spending half a day with the other parent. Once the toddler has gotten used to this, the parents could then try and see if the toddler would be comfortable spending a full day with the other parent.
The age of 5 years is where things generally start to become more flexible, this is generally the age in which the Child begins school and is getting used to spending long periods of time in different environments. The attachment between the other parent and the Child at this point also becomes more stable and secure. This is also the age in which sleep overs generally become appropriate. However, just because the Child is 5 years does not mean that they are yet read. This is important because the decision by the authorities is based upon the readiness of the Child.
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Only after the Child has gotten used to spending one night away from home can full weekends be considered. This could be as early as still 5 years old depending on the Child’s readiness, or it may only happen when the Child is 6 or 7 years old.
The years leading up to the age of 5 are the most important years in terms of the development of the Child. It is upon this basis that rules regarding the contact with such a young Child must be incredibly strict and follow a precise routine.
Should you find yourself in such a position, contact us. We understand you are in a difficult situation and it affects much more than just yourself and the other parent involved.