Is Breastfeeding in Your Child's Best Interest? New Jersey Has No Official Position But It May Factor Into Your Custody Dispute
Breastfeeding has evolved into a somewhat controversial topic in recent years for a host of reasons. The formula vs. natural milk debate is ongoing, objections to public breastfeeding crop up continually and, as of late, breastfeeding debates are spilling over into the halls of state government. Two pieces of legislation — A3702 and A3703 — are currently working their way through the New Jersey State Assembly to raise public awareness concerning the dangers associated with breast milk sharing and implementing formal licensing rules for breast milk sharing banks in the Garden State. Other states have considered breastfeeding in the family law context. In neighboring Pennsylvania, a court reportedly ordered a mother to cease breastfeeding her infant daughter to facilitate a father's request for overnight parenting time. No such case has, to date, been handed down by a New Jersey court with precedential authority, but it's easy to imagine how a parenting time case involving the issue of breastfeeding could play out in a New Jersey family court. We've discussed many times here at our blog how New Jersey family courts always rely first and foremost upon an analysis of the best interests of the parties' child(ren) in assessing the merits of a parenting time application. That standard is subjective by design. How would a New Jersey Court treat a breastfeeding dispute? While there is no codified standard on this issue, the American Academy of Pediatrics has consistently recommended “exclusive breastfeeding for about 6 months, followed by continued breastfeeding as complementary foods are introduced, with continuation of breastfeeding for 1 year or longer as mutually desired by mother and infant.“ There's no easy answer. In a hypothetical New Jersey parenting time dispute, female litigants may rely on the Academy's standard or similar authorities as the cornerstone of a best interests argument; male litigants, conversely, will clearly need to meticulously set forth an argument drawing upon additional factors to overcome what appears to be an unofficial but very real public trend in favor of breastfeeding if he wants to exercise overnight parenting within the first several months. Parents who are capable of crafting an agreement with or without the help of counsel may consider arrangements that allow for flexibility where it concerns nighttime feedings. You don't have to navigate this difficult situation by yourself. Compassionate, experienced and zealous representation is only an email or phone call away. If you or someone you know is grappling with a custody or parenting time dispute in New Jersey, contact the family law attorneys at DeMichele & DeMichele online today. Your confidential initial consultation can also be scheduled by calling our family law attorneys: (856) 546-1350.