Breastfeeding as a Factor in Child Custody and Visitation Decisions

By Kristen D. Hofheimer

Breastfeeding as a Factor in Child Custody and Visitation DecisionsBreastfeeding as a Factor in Child Custody and Visitation Decisions

Custody cases are difficult, but when your child is breastfeeding, it’s even trickier!

Moms can choose to breastfeed their babies for years, and, for many moms, breastfeeding is pretty central to the kind of mom they want to be. It’s an emotional decision, as well as a practical one, and the idea that a possible custodial arrangement could exist that would not respect the importance of the breastfeeding relationship is appalling to many moms.
But how do Virginia courts handle custody when the child in question is breastfeeding?
It’s probably the first decision you really get to make for your child regarding how you plan to raise him or her, and the benefits to both mom and baby are well documented. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to have a baby and not encounter about a million different places that extoll the values of breastfeeding, and the importance of the breastfeeding relationship. How is breastfeeding handled in custody? Find out in this free report, written by former Hofheimer Family Law managing partner, Kristen Hofheimer, for the UVA Law School Law Review. What’s appropriate for one child in one situation may not necessarily be what’s appropriate for another child in a different situation. That’s part of what makes being a Virginia custody lawyer quite so difficult; there’s no hard and fast, black and white rules to guide us when we make recommendations to our clients. It can also be hard to predict what a judge will order if a case ultimately has to go to court. There are so many unique factors that can play an important part in each and every custody case that it can be hard to know exactly how much weight might be given to each. As you can probably imagine, breastfeeding is a factor that affects custody and visitation cases in Virginia. For babies and young children whose mothers breastfeed, even for an extended period of time, that choice is generally reflective of a very deep rooted belief in what is best for a developing child. It also makes visitation a difficult proposition because, by its very nature, breastfeeding requires a certain proximity of mother to child. In a way that no other issue in the custody and visitation spectrum does, breastfeeding really complicates the issue. In our practice, it’s something we’ve seen come up over and over again. In many cases, dads (and sometimes judges and Guardians ad litem) don’t understand (or pretend not to understand) the importance of breastfeeding, and sometimes even accuse mothers of breastfeeding specifically to limit dad’s access to the child for an extended period of time. Kristen Hofheimer, former president and managing partner of the law firm and single mother, is aware of the issues that breastfeeding creates in Virginia custody and visitation cases. In fact, when she was in law school, she wrote an article, “Breastfeed as a Factor in Custody & Visitation”, that was published in the prestigious University of Virginia Law Review. For more information about breastfeeding as it relates to custody and visitation cases in Virginia, check out Kristen’s article. It’s a really interesting piece that details the science of breastfeeding and why it’s important, uncovers Virginia case law as it relates to breastfeeding, and even discusses changes to the law that could be made to better support breastfeeding mothers. It’s a really comprehensive look at the issues presented by breastfeeding in custody and visitation decisions, and it will give you a much better understanding of what you’re up against if breastfeeding is an issue that will likely to be raised in your upcoming custody case.