Parenting philosophies differ based on cultural, religious and personal beliefs, but people generally have no problems accepting another parent's methods as long as the children appear to be healthy and happy. Such respect and acceptance, however, is not so easily given between divorced or separated parents who don't share the same parenting philosophies. One issue that's come up in the courts time and time again involves the right to breastfeed. More specifically, it involves the right of the mother to breastfeed as long as she feels is appropriate, versus the other parent's right to parenting time in shared/ joint custody situations. Complicating the situation are recommendations by medical groups such as The American Pediatric Association, which recommends nursing for the first 6 months, then working into solids, complemented by bottled breast milk. However, plenty of moms continue to breast feed well into the toddler years (up to age 3).
As you can imagine, constant nursing causes problems in joint parenting schedules, even if the father only has the child for 2 days out of the week. It's especially problematic when the child is not on a set feeding schedule, meaning that mom has to be available on demand. Even though milk can be pumped, asking a mom to pump two days of milk at a time, right before the other parent comes to pick up the child, is not practical in most cases. Another problem commonly associated with prolonged breastfeeding are alternate child care philosophies, such as “attachment parenting.” This form of parenting has been very popular in recent years, and is practiced by many celebrities such as Kourtney Kardashian and Mariah Carey. In essence, attachment parenting promotes “extreme responsiveness and physical closeness” through behaviors such as nursing into the toddler years, and sharing the same bed as your children.
Sharing the same bed as your kids has always been a controversial practice, though there's no conclusive evidence of its harm to children. State laws, including New Jersey, do not recognize it as a harmful practice, either. Still, you can see how this can become the source of a custody dispute, especially as children get older and more independent. As of now, New Jersey continues to make determinations based on the “best interest” standard, focusing on the “safety, happiness, physical, mental and moral welfare of the child.” Deciding that requires examining many factors in a child's life, as well as the lives of both parents. A child's needs, however, in particular, the child's medical needs, personal preferences, and established routines prior to the divorce, will be of the utmost importance. Because of the complexities involved in such cases, parents should discuss their rights and legal options with an experienced family law attorney. Even if you wish to work things out without litigation, both parents should have independent counsel to ensure that they understand their rights. For more information on resolving custody disputes in New Jersey, please speak with the attorneys of Villani & DeLuca, P.C.