Bringing Home Baby: Custody Issues Related to Newborns

Planning for and bringing home a new baby is a challenging task on its own. Adding a breakup or divorce to the equation only amplifies those challenges. If you have found yourself in the middle of a breakup, a separation, or a divorce prior to the birth of your baby, or shortly thereafter, crafting a visitation plan for a newborn can be tricky. Unfortunately, most states, including Texas, do not have set visitation or custody plans in place to help guide new parents.

Assuming both parents want to be an active part of their child’s life from the beginning, hopefully, they can put aside any differences and acrimony and act in the best interest of the newborn. If not, it will be up to a court make the tough decisions related to the custody and care of the newborn. As with many states, Texas courts use the best interest of the child standard when determining custodial issues. A determination of a child’s best interest includes, but is not limited to, the child’s needs, the ability of the child’s parents to cooperate in decision-making, the level of each parent’s participation, distance between parents’ residences, and any other factor the court finds relevant.

The Unique Case of Newborns

Determining the needs and best interests of children and teenagers is vastly different from determining the needs and best interests of a newborn. This is largely due to a newborn’s immobility and complete and total reliance on the parents. Newborns need consistency and a reliable and predictable routine. Because newborns change and grow rapidly during their first year, routines may change from month-to-month. The parents of a newborn must be flexible and realize that any parenting plan may need adjustments on a fairly consistent basis. Additionally, a new mother’s decision to breastfeed her newborn may hinder the other parent’s ability to have visitations away from the custodial home.

While it is likely (although every situation is different) that the noncustodial parent will not have overnight visits for the first few months, it is imperative that both parents are active in the day-to-day routine of the newborn so that he or she will be familiar and comfortable with both parents. This would include both parents helping with the feeding, bathing, dressing, sleeping, changing diapers, etc. Additional considerations involve child care, doctors’ appointments (which are frequent in the first year), and monetary obligations.

Hopefully, new parents going through a rough point in their relationship can come together for the sake of their newborn. While the circumstances may make doing so difficult at best, it is important for new parents to try and agree on a visitation plan and to keep any discord and tension out of the newborn’s environment. At the Clark Law Group we understand that losing a relationship around the time of the birth of a child is difficult and painful. We are here to help you understand the law and your rights as a new parent. We can help you navigate your way through the process so that you can focus your attention where it counts most – on your new baby. Contact us today to see how we can help.

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