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May 28, 2024, 07:22:09 PM

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Overnight Parenting Time With Infants

Need some information to counter an assertion that child is "too young for overnight visits" with the other parent? Look no further.
SPARC often receives requests for assistance in locating information concerning the effect on infants of separation from the primary care giver. This information is usually needed to disprove assertions by one parent (usually the mother) that the child is "too young for overnight visits" with the other parent (typically the father).

In some instances the mother may submit a motion to the court, asking that a judge formally restrict overnight stays with the father. The effect of this is to discount the father's involvement and/or importance. By reducing parenting time to the father, he is denied his right to care for and bond with his child.

Note: Specific reference to the parent's respective genders is relevant in this situation. At the time of writing, SPARC is unaware of an instance where a father has attempted to make this argument in court, i.e. to assert that the child was "too young for overnight visits" with the mother. If you know of an instance like this and can cite supporting documentation please contact us and let us know.

SPARC has also been contacted in reference to an alleged study concerning infant brain research that supposedly showed the "negative effects of separation far outweigh the benefits of being parented by the non-custodial father".

We are unaware of any peer reviewed work that documents any negative effects of being parented by the non-custodial father. If you're aware of a study that claims negative effects of being parented by the non-custodial father, please contact us and let us know the name of the study and where it may be obtained.

If presented with supposed "research" in an attempt to reduce or eliminate your overnight time with your infant son or daughter, we suggest examining the material detailed below, as it references some of the most significant research supporting the beneficial effects of frequent contact with both parents.

These two articles review the relevant scientific literature that bears on the question of residential schedules for young children:

  • Joan B. Kelly and Michael E. Lamb, "Using Child Developmental Research to Make Appropriate Custody and Access Decisions for Young Children," in Family and Conciliation Courts Review, Volume 38, Number 3, July 2000, pages 297-311. [reprint available through www.ncmc-mediate.org]

  • Richard A. Warshak, "Blanket Restrictions: Overnight Contact Between Parents and Young Children," in Family and Conciliation Courts Review, Volume 38, Number 4, October 2000, pages 422-445. [reprint available through www.warshak.com]


The Family and Conciliation Courts Review is published by the prestigious Association of Family and Conciliation Courts. Submissions to the journal must pass the review of experts before being accepted for publication (known as 'peer review'). Each of these articles was considered important enough to be the lead article in the journal issue in which it appeared.

Michael Lamb is head of the Section on Social and Emotional Development at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. He is probably the world's leading authority on early child development, certainly the leading authority in the United States. Richard Warshak and Joan Kelly are widely recognized as being two of the world's leading authorities on custody and divorce.

In "Using Child Developmental Research to Make Appropriate Custody and Access Decisions for Young Children" Kelly and Lamb conclude: "Regardless of who has been the primary caretaker, therefore, children benefit from the extensive contact with both parents that fosters meaningful father-child and mother-child relationships."

In Blanket Restrictions: Overnight Contact Between Divorced Parents and Young Children, Dr. Warshak writes "...blanket restrictions requiring young children to spend every night with the same parent after divorce are inconsistent with current knowledge about the needs and capacities of young children and their parents, and that the practice of discouraging overnight contact cannot be supported by appeals to theory, research, clinical experience, common experience, or common sense."

In short, no scientific research supports the claim that infants are harmed by overnights with a father. If your ex (or opposing counsel) attempts to make this claim, obtain reprints of the articles cited above and use them to show that the evidence clearly indicates the opposite- that overnight time with the father is beneficial.

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