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Researchers find overnight visits may be detrimental to children

Our blog has talked extensively about the importance of joint custody for children and protecting both parents' rights to their children. Although the presumption in Georgia is that parents will share custody of children following a divorce, a custody arrangement is ultimately made in the best interests of a child. This may mean that one parent has very limited rights or no rights at all if having rights would be detrimental to the child's well-being.

A new study may also shift how custody arrangements are made, but it may cause considerable controversy with many parents. According to researchers, infants who spend at least one night a week away from a primary caregiver are more likely to have "insecure" attachments to that caregiver. An insecure attachment could have very serious effects throughout the child's life.

The researchers looked at children at the time of their birth and at the ages of 1 and 3. Of those who spent at least one overnight visit away from the primary caregiver a week, 43 percent had insecure attachments, compared to only 16 percent with fewer overnight visits.

Researchers have suggested that it may be best for children, especially infants and toddlers, to spend most of their nights with one parent and have the other parent more involved during the day. This, they argue, would encourage a child to have at least one strong attachment to a parent. As the children grow older, the parents may start to share overnights more until they are nearly even.

Whether Georgia family courts will adopt such an approach remains to be seen.

Source: News.Virginia.edu, “Overnights Away From Home Affect Children’s Attachments, Study Shows,” Fariss Samarrai, July 18, 2013

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William C. Gentry, Attorney at Law

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