Custody and Visitation
law firm partner Greg Frey, the outgoing chair of the Hawaii State Bar
Association’s Family Law Section, recently appeared with prominent child
development psychologist, Joan B. Kelly, Ph.D. and a panel of experts at a
Continuing Legal Education Seminar. Dr. Kelly has a list of extremely
impressive credentials and is often known to express some unorthodox views
on early childhood development. In particular, her ideas include many
options on how post-divorce custody and visitation arrangements can be
structured in a way to insure that a child’s early development is not
negatively impacted by their parents’ divorce.
a follow-up to last month’s column, I present a brief synopsis of Dr.
Kelly’s philosophies on visitation and child custody. 1) It is
imperative that young children are able to form strong attachments and
emotional ties with both parents.
2) Very young children often prefer to play with dad instead of mom (i.e.,
they love to roughhouse and horseplay as this type of play will hit the
high and low emotions). 3) If mom is supportive of “dad-kid” play, it
will strengthen their bond; if not, it could hurt the bonding with both
parents. 4) The best time to tightly bond fathers into the “family
equation” is when children are young. 5) From seven months to two years
order to implement Dr. Kelly’s view in the context of modern divorce
courts, it may be necessary to rethink some of the terminology and
philosophy which currently predominate the court system. The current
terminology used in current divorce proceedings may actually be a
stumbling block as divorce decrees award “custody” to one parent, and
grant “visitation” to the other. The parent with more time, frequently
the mother, often insists on being designated the parent with “sole
legal and physical custody” and the parent with less time resents being
relegated to the status of mere “visitor.” It would seem to be an
extrapolation of Dr. Kelly’s philosophies that perhaps more cases should
be resolved by an award of joint custody and the implementation of more
frequent and balanced timesharing schedules.
is interesting and important to note that many of Dr. Kelly’s views
Kelly’s basic belief is that frequent (and even forced) contact between
the children and both parents
(including overnight stays) is essential even at the most early stages of
child development. However, many authorities feel that continuity and
stability, especially for infant children, are the most crucial factors in
custody and visitation rulings.
Family Courts often follow this latter line of thinking in establishing
visitation schedules, it is thought provoking to consider the fact that,
if Dr. Kelly is indeed correct, we may
Bradley A. Coates, J.D., has been
a practicing divorce attorney in Honolulu for over 20 years. He has been
selected as Honolulu’s Best Divorce Lawyer and is the founder of Coates
& Frey. Phone 524-4854 or visit www.coatesandfrey.com.