When the court considers the best interests of the children in an Allocation of Parental Responsibilities case, and the children involved are infants or toddlers, many courts will designate one parent as the primary caregiver based on the “Attachment Theory”. The basic premise of the Attachment Theory is that infants become attached to individuals who are sensitive and responsive to them in social interactions, and who remain as constant caregivers during the period from about six months to two years of age. An important tenet of this research is that an infant needs to develop a relationship with at least one primary caregiver for normal social and emotional development to occur. As a result of this research, the Attachment Theory has formed the basis of many childcare policies and court-ordered parenting plans. This is not to say that the courts will not allow both parents time with the children. It only means that overnights with the other parent may be restricted until the child is old enough to be away from the primary parent. In many cases, a graduated parenting plan may be implemented as the child matures allowing equal time for both parents.
During this major developmental time period, it is important for parents that are establishing separate households to focus on the needs of the child and not their own. Consistent and frequent contact with the “non-primary” is very important for both the child and parent. As the child matures, parenting time with each parent tends to equalize and normalize, with a continuing focus on what is in the child’s best interest.