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Parents in California that are going through a divorce must consider their child’s age when negotiating a parenting plan. Although a 50-50 split custody agreement may sound fair on the surface, it might not be in the best interest of a very young child. That’s because babies and toddlers need to be with their primary caregiver most of the time.

Research on childhood development has shown that babies need to be with their primary caregiver almost the entire day, every day. Babies should also see their other parent a few times a week so that they can form a healthy attachment to both parents. As a child ages, they will be able to spend more and more time with their second parent as their ability to handle change and stress increases.

If a divorce happens while a child is still very young, parents can slowly transition into a split custody arrangement as the child becomes more mature. By the time a child has reached elementary school age, they may be ready to handle a split-week schedule where they spend equal time with both parents. During the teen years, an adolescent’s schedule and social life may affect how much time they spend at each parent’s house.

Developing a parenting plan might be complicated after a divorce because the parents could have difficulty communicating with each other. If a schedule cannot be worked out between the parents, a judge may have to step in to make a child custody ruling. A parent who is approaching their family court date may want to have legal assistance before and during the hearing. An attorney might be able to present evidence about what schedule would be in the child’s best interest.