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Exchanging Children

November 18, 2012 | Mark Spencer Williams | Child Custody & Visitation | No Comments

The child custody exchange creates an opportunity for separated and divorced parents to demonstrate their co-parenting skills or help lose their child custody case by giving the other side plenty of reasons to show the Court why they are not acting in their child’s best interests.

A court or the parties can agree on many exchange locations and routines. Some typical approaches include:

Receiving Parent Picks Up – The parent who is scheduled to get the child goes to the other parent’s home to pick up the child. This can be an excellent approach because it allows the child to stay in a comfortable environment and if the pickup becomes delayed, the child is not waiting in a car or other location. When a parent has been inconsistent with visitation, this can be an excellent option because if they don’t show up to pick up the child, they may forfeit their time.

Giving Parent Takes to Receiving Parent – This can have the advantage of demonstrating to the children that the parent is happy for the other parent to have time with the children. If the children are reluctant to go, it can also solve the problem of having to “pry” reluctant children away from some activity.

School – A school exchange has the advantage that neither parent need see the other. This can be very beneficial when the parents are not able to conduct themselves well when together. The disadvantage is that the child may be burdened with having to carry a backpack or suitcase to school.

Public Gas Stations/Restaurants or Other Places – When there has been a history of domestic violence, harassment or distrust, a public location is sometimes best to encourage best behavior by both parents.

Police Stations – When a party has a Domestic Violence Protection Order, sometimes the court will specify a Police Station. We don’t recommend that this option be used when it is a choice for the parties. Police stations can be scary places for children and often, police officers are out in the field and the station itself is not well staffed to monitor an exchange.

Mid-Points – Especially when parents live at a significant distance from each other, they will often agree to meet half-way. A good website for finding a half-way point is www.meetways.com.

Exchange “Dos”

  • Keep it low-key, upbeat, and professional.  Don’t act like an exchange is a big deal.
  • Be on-time.
  • Call the other parent if you are going to be late.
  • Take the child’s clothing, supplies, medicines, homework, etc.
  • Ensure he children are fed and rested before an exchange.
  • Encourage the children.

Exchange “Don’ts”

  • Don’t argue with the other parent
  • Don’t discuss issues in front of the child especially child support, issues affecting the child, plans
  • Don’t involve the child or put the child in the middle
  • Don’t tell the child he/she can’t take a toy or other item to the other parent’s house
  • Don’t “debrief” the child by asking them what they did with the other parent
  • Do not tell a child they don’t have to go if they don’t want to do so.
  • Don’t try to handle child business at an exchange. Deal with that later by phone or in person with the other parent when the child(ren) is not present.
  • Don’t take a boyfriend/girlfriend to the exchange location if it will escalate tensions.
  • Don’t have someone video the exchange if the children can possibly be aware of the taping.

Many child custody hearings focus on the conduct of the parents at child custody exchanges.  Some exchanges are even secretly recorded by video and/or audio.  While it is important for your child to be on your best behavior, it is also important for your case.  Doing the right thing at the child custody exchange helps your child and your legal case.

If you have examples of what works well in an exchange, please share them with us.

Disclaimer: Seek legal advice from an attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.



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