The child's best interest is the primary factor in the determination of a parenting plan, but deciding what truly is best for a child requires careful examination of numerous personal and social circumstances. Take, for example, the issues of breastfeeding, which has become a major political issue, in addition to simply being a mother's choice for her baby. As a general rule, there is conclusive scientific evidence for the courts to agree that breastfeeding is best whenever possible. However, New Jersey laws do not mandate family court judges to consider breastfeeding when ruling on a custody matter.
Most judges, of course, do take the breastfeeding relationship into consideration because it does tie directly into the child's best interests. Legal precedent has been set by states such as California, which gives nursing mothers primary custody for the first six months. This arrangement may be changed after the six months, but in the meantime, the other parent usually receives up to 3 visitations per week, at 2 hours per visitation. You may wonder why there are no such laws in New Jersey, but the truth is, most states are hesitant to set concrete rules on the subject of breastfeeding.
One consideration is the fact that many women choose to breastfeed past the 6 month mark. If a mother, for example, wants to nurse her child until he's two years old, should a judge allow her to have primary custody until then? By doing so, the judge could be accused of showing bias towards the mother, while interfering with the other parent's custodial rights. Setting concrete rules could also hurt children with specific dietary and developmental needs, who may benefit from extended breastfeeding. As you can see, there's no one solution that fits all, which is why it's important for each couple to put the needs of their child first. Considering the cost and hassle of going to court, it's in a couple's best interest to work out an agreement with help from their attorneys. Spouses who continue to remain civil each other may want to try mediation, but each spouse should consult an attorney throughout the process, since the mediator is prohibited from giving legal advice to either party. If going to court is your best option, you'll definitely need an attorney with extensive trial experience in the New Jersey family courts.
In recent years, more and more women have been vocal about the need for state and federal legislation concerning a mother's right to breastfeed. With the American Academy of Pediatrics recommending breast milk for the first 6 months, a child's breastfeeding needs will continue to be a critical factor in the determination of custody for children under 12 months. You should, however, work with an experienced family law attorney since there are no specific laws for the enforcement of breastfeeding rights, as there are for other parental rights. For more inform on your custodial rights and legal options, please speak with the attorneys of VIllani & DeLuca, P.C.