Secure Attachment in Child Custody Cases

Family Law Blog

Secure Attachment in Child Custody Cases

December 16, 2019 | Divorce, Parenting (Child Custody)

Secure Attachment in Child Custody Cases

When parents of minor children divorce there is often a “custody dispute” over the amount of parenting time each parent receives. During the marriage, usually one parent was more responsible for taking care of the child. This is called “caretaking responsibilities,” also knowns as caregiving.  Usually at divorce, the parent with greater caretaking responsibilities will want more more parenting time than the other, less involved, parent.

For over a century (until the 1980s), Illinois law, under the “tender years doctrine,” recognized that a mother had greater caretaking responsibilities and should be given more parenting time than the husband. Rapid social change has made this doctrine  archaic and extremely rigid. Now, courts follow a “best interest of the child” standard when determining a parenting schedule. Courts consider many factors, including the parent with caretaking responsibilities.

As each parent makes a case for more parenting time, they will be wise to show how their parenting time will have a positive impact on the growth and development of the child. As each parent argues against the other having increased parenting time, they will be wise to show how the other’s increased parenting time will interfere will the growth and development of the child.  Within this framework, the interaction between parent and child has critical importance.

Psychologists stress the importance of a parent’s response to a child’s needs as well a parent’ s reaction when a child is scared or hurt. According to psychologist Hal Shorey (@HalShorey), in this blog, when parents are consistently available, warm, and responsive, children develop “secure attachment” styles. Per Shorey, a child who develops secure attachment feels confidence in his/her caregiver.  Shorey says children who have that confidence  “are free to focus their energies on play and exploring their interpersonal and natural environments.” Additionally,  children with “secure bases to return to when they meet with inevitable goal blockages or become frightened…will explore in ever widening circles…[and] they should become increasingly successful in achieving their goals and develop hopeful ways of thinking.”  Shorey says “when children seek comfort after failures, parents go beyond soothing distress and also provide the children with new strategies to use in successive goal pursuits.” Further, Shorey states as secure children “mature through adolescence into adulthood”  they  “become increasingly efficacious individuals who believe that; (a) they are lovable and worthy of support, (b) others as available and responsive, and (c) the world is a safe and predictable place.”

When there is a custody dispute regarding parenting time, each parent’s interactions with the child is of paramount importance. If a child is securely attached to one parent and not the other because the other parent does not respond to the child’s needs as Shorey explains, then a very compelling argument can be made that it is not in the best interests of the child to spend significant time with the parent who does not provide secure attachment. If, on the other hand, a child is securely attached to both parents then each parent needs to make the court aware that they will respond to the child with love, warmth, and attention.

The Botti Law Firm, P.C. has been practicing family law for nearly 50 years in DuPage and Cook County.  Please contact one of our attorneys at (630)573-8585 if you have any questions or would like to schedule a free consultation.

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