INFORMATION FOR MOTHERS IN FAMILY LAW SITUATIONS (October 2006)
Melissa R. Vance, Esq., Legal Advisory Council, LLLI
La Leche League International understands the issues that may arise when a breastfeeding child is involved in a child visitation or custody situation. The late Liz Baldwin, Esq., whose articles are on our website, encourages parents to work things out for the sake of the child. The child's needs should come first and foremost. Breastfeeding should not be used to bar access to a child; mothers need to be prepared to offer the father/partner time to be with the child.
La Leche League International can not provide you with legal advice nor offer you the services of an attorney. You may contact a local leader, who can be found through this website. She may be able to provide or obtain information that is relevant to the law in your area.
For those in the United States, some states have statutes that specifically require breastfeeding to be considered in custody/visitation decisions. If you live in Hawaii, Maine, Michigan or Utah, please look at our website to view the specific statute. Other states may have prior legal decisions that will guide you and/or your attorney. If your attorney needs to speak with someone further, please have him or her contact La Leche League International directly by phone or e-mail.
The following websites, in addition to our own, contain information that may be of assistance in such situations.
Attachment 101 for Attorneys: Implications for Infant Placement Decisions
By Eleanor Willemsen and Kristen Marcel
Family law resources by Attachment Parenting International, including a link for professionals.
American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement on Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk
In addition to setting forth the importance of breastfeeding, there is specifically a recommendation under Role of Pediatricians, Society: "Support the efforts of parents and the courts to ensure continuation of breastfeeding in separation and custody proceedings."
Dr. Katharine Dettwylers's court letter that can be used in cases involving extended breastfeeding.
This document, out of Australia, discusses studies on extended breastfeeding.