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NEWBORN BABY CUSTODY IN VIRGINIA

If parties to a divorce have a recently born baby, custody will look quite different than the average custodial arrangement parents of older children have. What should separating parents with a new baby expect? Let’s discuss:

Primary Custodian

Similar to the custody of older children, custodial arrangements for a new baby include a primary custodian. Generally speaking, the baby’s mother might be the primary custodian if the baby is breast fed exclusively.

What differs with a newborn baby is that the non-primary custodian’s visitation tends to be very minimal at first depending on the parties’ schedules, and gradually increases as the baby is able to go longer between feedings or is weaned, depending on the parent’s preferences.

Visitation Schedule

The ideal visitation schedule for new born babies will be very flexible to accommodate the needs of the baby, such as needing his or her parent’s close care, while still allowing the non-custodial parent to begin bonding with their baby as much as possible.

Since new born visitation requires flexibility to be successful, their schedules are often minimalist to allow parents to have a formal agreement which ensures visits occur, while being able to accommodate the baby’s needs as necessary.

For example, a visitation arrangement for a baby may specify visits occur on certain days of the week, with a window of time rather than a set time, such as four hours rather than from 1:00 to 4:00. This ensures that the non-custodial parent gets to visit with the baby regularly while reducing the stress associated with getting the baby to and from the visit, as babies are notorious for being tardy due to unexpected surprises such as emergency diaper changes!

Newborn Custody and Visitation Tips and Considerations

Keep the following tips in mind as you coordinate your newborn’s custody and visitation:

  • Due to the frequent feedings most babies require, if the baby is breast fed exclusively, the mother should always have pumped milk ready to go for visitation. Otherwise, visitation would very short due to how often newborns nurse.
  • Being flexible and reasonable is crucial to positive co-parenting.
  • Both parents, but especially the baby’s primary custodian, should be fully supportive of any opportunities presented which allow the non-custodial parent to build a relationship and begin to bond with their baby.

Do I Need To Formally Change My Baby’s Visitation Schedule?

Any major changes, or a more permanent arrangement agreed upon as the baby grows up, should always be formally updated to protect the interests of both parents. A major change would be considered:

  • A change of the primary custodian.
  • A change in the visitation schedule that is drastically different from the last formal agreement in any way.
  • A change in child support.

An example of a more significant change, such as changing from Parent A being the primary custodian with Parent B having visitation three days a week to Parent A having custody of the child the first and third weeks of the month and Parent B having custody of the child the second and fourth weeks of the month, require a formal change.

Can I Informally Change My Baby’s Visitation Schedule?

If one week the non-custodial parent needs to change their visit from Tuesday to Thursday, this one-time change does not require documentation other than a text or email confirming what was agreed to.

For other adjustments you may be tempted to handle them in a similar informal way, however, it is never recommended to make a significant change your baby’s visitation schedule by means of an informal agreement sometimes referred to as a “hand shake agreement”. This is potentially damaging to both parents for many reasons, including but not limited to:

  • If the agreement is not being followed, if one of the parents wants to pursue litigation, this may give them the opportunity to file a Rule to Show Cause, which is when litigation is used to enforce the agreement.
  • Even if the parents agreed to different terms, if a disagreement occurs, it is difficult to formally enforce terms that were not formalized.
  • A significant change, such as the example aforementioned involving Parent A and Parent B, would change child support significantly. If a formal change was pursued, an attorney could potentially assist with reducing child support payments, depending on the facts of the case.

How Should I Handle Updating The Baby’s Visitation Schedule?

The parties may choose to execute an amendment to an existing agreement, or they may revoke a prior agreement and create a new one.

If both parents are in complete agreement with making a change, updating an existing agreement is quite simple.

If the parents are not in agreement, attorney involvement becomes necessary. Settlement discussions then begin, and if the parties are unable to reach settlement, litigation may be initiated.

How can The Hopkins Law Firm help me?

The Hopkins Law Firm makes updates to existing custody and visitation agreements as smooth as possible for clients. Whether it be an amicable agreement or contentious litigation, they are ready to help you with your unique legal needs and can be contacted at 571-248-2210 or [email protected]

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