What Is the Best Custody Arrangement for an Infant?
by Unbundled Legal Help
Divorce cases involving children can be complicated. However, when the child is an infant, coming to a workable custody arrangement becomes more difficult. In the past, if a custody case involved an infant, custody would be automatically granted to the child’s mother. Today, however, both parents have an equal chance to have custody. Shared custody is the most common arrangement in these cases — unless there are specific circumstances that make that impossible.
There are several factors that a court will take into account when settling a custody case. These include the home environment, parents’ financial situation, child caring abilities, and more. The best case scenario in any custody case is for both parents to reach an agreement. This will substantially reduce the stress of the situation for both partners and help avoid expensive and emotionally draining court proceedings.
However, if you find yourself in a situation where reaching an agreement is impossible, it is strongly advised that you consult a custody lawyer as soon as possible. They will offer advice for your situation and explain what legal options you have for seeking the arrangement you want.
What Is the Best Custody Arrangement for an Infant?
When deciding on custody solutions for couples with an infant, two main factors need to be considered.
The first year of your baby’s life is very important and presents an exceptional bonding opportunity for both parents. A suitable custody arrangement takes this into account and creates an environment where neither parent spends more than a few days away from the baby.
At the same time, your baby needs a consistent and stable schedule during this period of their life. This means both parents will need to make sure that sharing custody doesn’t disrupt the baby’s routine.
Taking both factors into account, the best custody arrangement for an infant would be living with one parent full-time and having frequent visits from the other parent. This custody solution helps to ensure that both parents build a meaningful bond with their child without creating a stressful and hectic environment for the baby. Once your child is older, overnight visitation can become an option.
How to Make a Custody Arrangement Work?
Each family situation is unique and you may need strategies for adapting a custody arrangement to your lifestyle. However, several key elements generally make a custody arrangement work:
- Both partners should do their best to work around each other’s schedules and maximize the time they spend with the baby. It’s best if the infant is with one or the other parent for most of the time during the first years of life.
- Parents should aim to spend their time with the infant equally. Contact with both parents is important for the child during this time and can minimize separation anxiety.
- It’s best to keep the arrangement you have agreed upon constant and not make sudden changes. Routines are important for infants. Plus, it can help you and your ex-spouse have a stable schedule to fall back on and arrange other responsibilities around it.
- As your child gets older, the custody arrangement and scheduling can be adjusted and modified. For instance, overnight stays become easier to arrange and your child will also find it easier to adapt to new environments.
It’s important to keep in mind that there is no standard solution for a custody arrangement in divorce cases. The best way to establish a workable schedule is to have an honest discussion with your ex-partner, compromise, and keep your infant’s best interests in mind.
Do I Need a Lawyer to Draft a Custody Agreement?
In most cases, even if you and your partner have a clear custody plan in mind, it’s best to consult an experienced family law attorney. They can analyze your proposed custody arrangement to make sure it is in line with state laws and protects your rights, the rights of your child, and your ex-spouse.
If you and your co-parent need help to reach an agreement for custody, a lawyer can advise you on the best arrangement for your situation. They can also act as a mediator and assist you in resolving any custody-related conflicts.
Finally, if you can’t find a resolution, you need the help of an attorney to protect your interests in court.
How Much Are the Services of a Custody Attorney?
How much you spend on legal fees depends on your custody circumstances and whether you and your partner can agree on how this arrangement will work.
Most custody lawyers charge a flat fee for a full set of services related to a custody case. The set fee you will be asked to pay typically ranges from $3,000 to $5,000. Note that if your custody case is particularly complicated and involves a lot of court time and negotiations, your attorney may charge an additional $250 to $500 per hour.
Thus, the legal expenses for an infant custody case can get quite high. Fortunately, there are a few strategies that can help you manage these costs.
How to Manage Legal Expenses for a Custody Hearing?
The less work your attorney needs to do, the less you will need to pay for legal fees. Thus, the most effective cost management strategy is to find a compromise with your co-parent and arrive at an agreement before you talk to your lawyer. In this way, your attorney will only need to consult you on the legal implications of your custody agreement and guide you through the related proceedings in court.
If you need assistance reaching an agreement, consider mediation. Mediation is a conflict resolution process that involves a third impartial party. During mediation, a neutral person will act as an intermediary to help the parties reach a workable conflict resolution. You don’t have to hire a lawyer to be a mediator in this case — any neutral party can take on this role. If the mediation works and you arrive at a compromise, you will be saving a lot of money in legal fees and a lot of time in expensive court proceedings.
If there is no way to reach an agreement with your partner, you will need to seek legal help — the sooner the better. Your attorney will look into your case and help you protect your interests with a custody hearing. Even when you require legal help, there is still a way to minimize your expenses. One way to do that is by using unbundled legal services. If you work with a lawyer from the Unbundled Help network, you will have the option to only pay for the services you need, thus avoiding the heavy flat fees other attorneys charge for their service packages. For instance, if you have a draft custody agreement in place, you can hire an unbundled attorney to look over the arrangement you’ve decided on and explain its legal implications. Or, you may need to hire a lawyer to assist in the negotiations with your ex-spouse. Whatever the case, you will only be paying for the services you need and saving thousands of dollars in legal expenses.
Using unbundled legal services is a good way to manage legal fees. However, hiring a lawyer for only one service may not always be the best solution for every custody case. If your custody situation is particularly complicated (which is more likely if you have an infant child), you are advised to hire full legal representation. If you need full legal representation, you can still work with an attorney from the Unbundled Help network. You may find that unbundled lawyers offer more affordable pricing for a package of services.