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How Does Child Custody Work for Newborns?

9 min read
Unbundled Legal Help

by Unbundled Legal Help

Every child custody case is unique and has its own challenges. This can be especially true for parents battling for custody of a newborn. While there are similarities to child custody cases involving older children, there are clear differences. 

In general, judges make child custody decisions based on what’s in the best interest of the child. Special arrangements, parenting plans, and visitation schedules must be made to accommodate the needs of your newborn. In most cases, it is best if parents draft their parenting together instead of relying on a judge to create one for them. 

If you and your ex are having a difficult time agreeing to a parenting plan, it may be in your best interest to consult with a child custody lawyer to discuss your case. We can connect you today with a local child custody lawyer to understand the best way to obtain custody of your newborn. Learn more about how child custody works for newborns below. 

When Can I File for Custody After Birth?

If you are in the midst of a divorce, then child custody is usually determined during the proceedings. However, if you are unmarried, custody cannot be determined until after the child is born. 

Married parents typically have shared custody until the divorce is final and/or a temporary custody order has been granted. In the case of unmarried parents, paternity must be established before the father has custodial rights recognized. 

How Does Shared Custody Work for Newborns?

Shared custody for newborns can be complex, but it is possible to achieve. An agreement can be negotiated before going to court or it can be decided by a judge. In general, shared custody for newborns involves dividing up the baby’s time between each parent in a manner that is appropriate for the infant’s development. 

When creating a shared custody plan, focus on the best interest of your child. Parenting plans sent to a judge to approve should not be more focused on the parents than the child. Judges are not as likely to approve such plans. Before creating a shared custody plan, parents should consider the following: 

  • Infants benefit from spending time with both parents. Time spent holding, feeding, playing, bathing, etc. are all moments of bonding 
  • Most babies do not have a normal sleep schedule or a predictable eating pattern
  • Lack of consistency and disruptions can be stressful and unhealthy for newborns
  • Newborn babies benefit from shorter, more frequent visits instead of prolonged visits with longer periods of absence 

How to Make a Shared Custody Plan for Newborns

Parents must consider many factors when creating a shared custody plan for a newborn. A newborn’s developmental needs must be taken into account at every phase of the plan. Judges are more likely to approve a shared custody plan for a newborn that addresses the following: 

  • A primary residence for the newborn (no overnight visits)
  • Visitation schedules that include short but frequent visits from the non-custodial parent
  • Schedules that allow both parents to share caretaking tasks (i.e. bathing, feeding, soothing, putting to sleep, etc) 
  • Plan and resolution to slowly implement changes in the plan as the child ages

Will Shared Custody Affect My Newborn Negatively?

Each case is different. However, the overwhelming evidence suggests that shared custody plans (those focused on the child’s best interest) are ideal for a newborn’s development. Time spent with each parent enables bonding. 

In addition to shared custody being good for a child, it is also beneficial for the parents arents can share the burdens (and joys) of raising their children. 

hared custody plans can be good for all parties (in many situations). Still, it can also sometimes be difficult to create a parental plan in the child’s best interest and at the same time satisfies both parents. You should consider the assistance of a child custody lawyer. 

How Does Breastfeeding Impact Custodial Agreements?

Creating a parenting plan that accommodates breastfeeding can be difficult but important when the mother desires to breastfeed. Millions of parents have successfully achieved an optimal schedule for themselves and their newborns. It just takes patience and a willingness to focus on the needs of your newborn. 

Newborns typically need feeding every few hours. So it is important to create a custody plan that doesn’t separate the child from its mother for too long. Some parents find it necessary to stipulate in the parenting plan if and when a child can use a bottle. 

In many cases, provisions for breastfeeding include the parents spending time together during some visitations or at least being near each other. If this cannot be accomplished (due to a bad relationship), it can hinder the child’s benefits from spending quality time with both parents. 

Newborns and a Father’s Rights

In the past, mothers were often granted full custody of newborns. In more recent years, family courts have leaned towards giving both parents a fair shot at custody. However, due to obvious genetic differences and the specific needs of a newborn, fathers can be at a disadvantage if they are filing for sole custody. Learn more about the custodial rights of a married and unmarried father below. 

Married Fathers 

Married fathers have the same right to custody as mothers. Divorcing parents typically share custody until the court makes a final ruling on child custody. However, it is important to note that judges remain unlikely to grant sole custody of a newborn to a father unless it can be proven that it’s in the best interest of the child to live with its father. 

Unmarried Fathers

Unmarried fathers who have not yet proven paternity, have no custodial rights. The process of proving paternity slightly differs from state to state, but there are many commonalities. In some cases, a father’s name on the birth certificate is all the court needs to prove paternity. 

If paternity is disputed, then a DNA test can be ordered or completed voluntarily. Once the relationship between the father and child has been determined, that father has the right to seek custody.  

Can Custody Orders Change as My Child Ages?

Predetermining how your parental plan will change years in advance can be difficult, to say the least. However, you can include gradual changes into your original child custody plan or you can request a modification of your original child custody plan as the need arises. 

If you and your co-parent can fairly negotiate and strategize, then you should be able to draft a parenting plan that takes into account your child’s developmental needs and how they change in the years that follow. It can sometimes be a complicated task to accomplish without the help of a proven child custody attorney. 

We Can’t Come to an Agreement, What Are My Options? 

In an ideal world, all parents could easily agree on the parameters of a child custody plan for their newborns. However, in many instances, this is not the case. If you cannot agree with your co-parent on custody and visitation, then your custodial rights will be decided by a judge. 

Custody battles can take months to conclude. It is in your best interest to be prepared. Whether it’s just a temporary order of child custody or the final order, parents must present a compelling argument to gain custody. 

This is especially true when they are seeking sole custody. It is recommended that you contact a seasoned child custody lawyer to represent you during contentious child custody proceedings. 

Do I Need to Go to Court for Custody of My Newborn?

It depends. If you are satisfied with the custodial rights that you currently have, then no, you do not need to go to court for custody of your newborn. However, if you are dissatisfied with your current custodial rights (or the rights of the other parent) then you will likely need to go to court. 

Parents who can negotiate and draft a parenting plan before going to court may only need a judge’s approval, instead of a full-blown hearing. 

If you are currently seeking custody of your newborn, totally foregoing the court process is not in you or your child's best interest. Custodial agreements not approved by a judge are not legally enforceable. When there are disagreements or the other parent doesn’t live up to their side of the deal, courts will not have the legal authority to settle the matter. 

Should I Hire a Child Custody Lawyer?

You have the right to represent yourself without the help of a child custody lawyer. However, that is not typically recommended. Child custody lawyers can assist you with filing the correct forms, understanding the child custody laws in your state, negotiating with your ex, drafting parental agreements, and representing you in court, etc. 

While the benefits of hiring a child custody attorney are apparent, the costs are often much higher than the average person can stomach. Most child custody lawyers charge between $3k - $5k just to get started on your case, and then an additional $300 - $500 per hour on top of that. 

Fortunately, there are ways to save money on legal fees while still hiring a proven child custody lawyer. 

Tips to Save Money on Legal Fees

With attorney fees so high, it makes sense to search for ways to save money on legal fees. Some of the most effective ways to save money on fees include:

  1. Develop a Good Relationship: Those couples who can set aside their differences and focus on the child’s needs, can create a parental plan on their own (or in mediation) and be able to bypass the sometimes drawn-out child custody hearing process. 
  2. Research: Gain an understanding of the child custody laws in your state before beginning the process. It can save you time, money, and frustration. 
  3. Take Care of Some Things on Your Own: You can save thousands of dollars in upfront fees by hiring an unbundled attorney to handle parts of your case. Learn more below. 

Save Money with an Unbundled Lawyer Today

With unbundled legal help, you can hire an attorney to help you with the more complex aspects of your case, while you take care of the rest on your own. This can save thousands of dollars in upfront fees. 

Fees for unbundled legal services start as low as $500 - $1500. Our network of Unbundled Attorneys also offer a variety of affordable rates for full representation. 

Contact an Unbundled Lawyer who can assist you with the process of obtaining custody of your newborn child and get a free consultation to see if your case is a good fit for unbundled limited services. 

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