Parents may feel they have a "claim" over a child. "I made her." "I spend more time with him." "She is MINE!" Parenting, preferably, is not merely one or the other. It is not adults "claiming" a child. It is co-parenting for the best interest of their child.
I remember doing research on what was the "best" time (or maybe the "least harmful") to divorce when my older children were young. Although it was several years ago, I still remember that the research that I read said the "best" times were before starting school when they were young or when they were older, such as in high school. The worst times were when they had just started school around the age of six. I can't give you the resources for what I read because I don't remember. We are talking about 20 years ago and statistics, research, etc have likely changed by now anyway. After having gone through all of it and seeing my children now as adults, the result was...it depends. It depends on the child. It depends on how the parents communicate and act toward each other. It depends on the sharing plan. It depends on the financial aspects. It depends...
Everyone hates that answer, don't they? "It depends..." Give me an answer!
Courts, at least in Colorado, focus on what is the "best interest" of the children. Although that means the parents need to be considered, the focus and main objective is to have the best interest of the children as the final determination.
Courts used to often have a basic "boiler-plate" of what decisions they would issue from the bench. Many fathers were seen as "secondary" to the mother in terms of being able to raise children. Not so anymore.
Courts often will now consider the individual child and the parents themselves when making decisions.
Although the courts try to hear the evidence (don't you just "love" that word when it comes to your children? Sarcasm here) and make the best decisions they can with the little time they have, it may not always be best. Judges try and do the best they can with the limited information and time offered to them, but they do not know the child, the parents, etc. in depth.
Although each case and child is different, what impact does the age of the children have on how they adjust to a divorce?
Infants are developing an attachment to their primary caretaker and trust in their environment. Toddlers are developing some independence. At this age the child may feel they are "abandoned."
* Primary residence is often best based on history
* Daily visitation by the non-residential parent, even for a short duration, if possible is desirable
* Overnight stays are not recommended
2 1/2 to 5-years old
Children at this age begin to develop skills to express their emotions and needs. They can hold the absent parent in mind and continue to develop their individuality. Children at this age might feel they are "responsible" for the breakup.
* Longer visitation may be gradually integrated from one overnight to up to three per week
* Longer weekends and shorter weekends with a visitation during the week
* Phones calls and communication with the non-residential parent are encouraged
6 to 8-years old
At this stage of development, children start to develop more peer attachments while their moral development is being obtained. They may have feelings of sadness, anger and fears of losing both parents. The concern at this age will be the child feels he/she is not "fitting in."
* Most children still need a primary home
* Children can begin to have multiple overnights
* Alternating half weeks if connections with school, friends, etc can be maintained
* Full weeks may be integrated toward the end of this age group
9 to 12-years old
Often the child will begin to understand and develop his or her own weaknesses and strengths compared to others. Fitting in with their friends becomes important and may develop a sense of shame with regard to the divorce. Children might begin to understand one or both parents at this stage. Children may begin to feel an "alliance" with one parent.
* Longer stays, up to two-weeks as long as connections with school, friends, etc. can be maintained
* Summers may have longer stays with parents in 4-6 weeks blocks
13 to 18-years old
At this stage children might be sad about the loss of their childhood and protection they felt with the family dynamic. Peers are often placed ahead of their parents and family. The child may de-idolize one or both parents.
* At this stage there are often numerous choices in visitation
* A "plan" may be developed with flexibility worked in
* Children are often given more input as to their wants and are involved in decisions
* There may be a "home base" with one to three weekends worked in for the non-residential parent
By looking outside of themselves and their own needs, parents are usually the best to determine the best interest of their children. Parents do not have to be best friends, but working together to figure out the best interest of their children is necessary. Communication is key to this, however some parents just cannot, and do not, have the ability to communicate in a means in which to develop a parenting plan.
A third-party, neutral individual, such as a mediator, priest, or counselor, may be able to help to communicate and develop a schedule. Schedules may change with parents moving, children developing, and changes in situations. Parents may have weddings, grandchildren, and holidays in the future so good, continuing communication, by whatever means, is necessary. There is nothing wrong with needing someone to help. The main goal is to develop what is best for the children.