While there is never a good time for a break-up when children are involved, a unique issue arises when a couple has a young child who is still breastfeeding at the time of the break-up. Having a breastfeeding child can cause parents anxiety and fear when it comes time for custody decisions to be made. Fathers are often concerned that they will lose their custody rights because the child needs to be with Mother in order to be fed. Mothers, on the other hand, are often concerned about how they will continue to breastfeed their child if the child is not with them the all of the time. The unknown about what may happen with regard to the custody of a breastfeeding child is a scary question for many parents.
Colorado Custody Laws
In Colorado, custody is comprised of two main components—decision-making and parenting time. Decision-making is similar to legal custody, and it refers to who will make the major decisions for the child with regard to education, medical, extra-curricular activities, and religion. Parenting time, sometimes called physical custody, refers to the schedule of when the child will spend time with each parent.
Parenting time is often the biggest concern for parents who have a breastfeeding child. To set the record straight, in Colorado a mother does not automatically get all parenting time of a young child simply because she is breastfeeding. Rather, if parents cannot agree on a parenting time schedule, a court must determine what parenting time schedule is in the child’s best interests. The fact that a child is breastfeeding is one factor for the court to consider when determining what is the child’s best interests, but it is not the only factor.
Factors That Influence Parenting Time and Visitation in Colorado
Some of the other factors that the court takes into consideration when making decisions regarding parenting time are:
- The wishes of the parents
- The interaction and interrelationship between the child and each parent and siblings
- The child’s adjustment to his or her home, school and community
- The mental and physical health of the parents and child
- The ability of each parent to encourage the sharing of love, affection and contact between the child and the other party
- The physical proximity of the parents
- he ability of each parent to place the needs of the child ahead of his or her own needs
Custody and Breastfeeding
The outcome of a custody dispute involving a breastfeeding child in Colorado is highly dependent on the specific facts of your case. For example, if mother and father live a significant distance from one another, it may be best for the child to live primarily with mother while breastfeeding and have frequent and consistent contact with father simply due to the distance between the parties. Fortunately, with the great advancements to breast pumps, mother should be able to provide a milk supply so that father can feed the child during his parenting time. In the event mother is not able to provide milk to father, it may be necessary for formula to be supplemented during father’s parenting time.
On the flip side, there may be times when a court determines that it is in a child’s best interests for father to have the majority or at least half of the parenting time of a breastfeeding child. In this situation, the court will likely determine that other some factor(s) outweighs the fact that the child is breastfed.
Advice for Parents: How to Think About Breastfeeding During Divorce
The best advice that I can give to a parent who is going through a break-up with a young child who is breastfed is to think objectively about what is really best for your child. This may mean that father may need to give up some amount of parenting time while the child is young in order for mother to continue to breastfeed, if you believe breastfeeding is truly best for your child. Or it may mean that mother will need to accept that father’s time with the child is important, so much so that supplementing formula so that father can have more parenting time is best for your child. Either way, the key is to focus on what is best for your child.
If you’re seeking the services of a Fort Collins divorce lawyer, who also serves clients across Nothern Colorado, don’t hesitate to contact Laura Monty Law.