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Study shows children benefit from overnight visits with fathers

Children in Rhode Island often benefit from having a loving and involved father in their lives. This is true even if the parents divorced when the child was young. According to a new study of divorced parents, when the mother had primary physical custody of the child, infants and toddlers benefited from spending some nights with their fathers. Not only did these overnight visits not interfere with the child's relationship with the mother, they actually improved the child's bonds with both parents.  Further, mother's often enjoy having one or more nights off fromthe hard work of parenting.  

The study found that infants and toddlers who had overnight visits with their fathers had a more positive relationship with both parents when they reached the ages of 18 to 20. This was the case both when the parents agreed to the overnight visits out of court, and when a judge ordered the overnight visits. This was also the case whether or not the parents experienced a lot of conflict between each other in the first five years following the dissolution of their marriage.

The researchers concluded that caring for their children throughout the day and night helped fathers develop their parenting skills early on and helped both the fathers and the children learn about one another, building a solid foundation for a positive relationship in the future. Just as a married father's involvement in his child's life is important, an unmarried father's involvement in his child's life is important as well.

Parents going through a divorce must either agree on child custody and a parenting plan/schedule, or let the court make these decisions. If the mother will have primary physical custody of the child, this study shows it may still be beneficial for the father to have overnight time with the child. A family law attorney can help a parent negotiate a visitation schedule that serves the best interests of the child.

Source: Lincoln Journal Star, "Sleepovers With Dad Can Be a Win-Win After Divorce," Feb. 4, 2017

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