Post-divorce child custody exchanges can be happy, peaceful, awkward, or downright horrible, depending on the relationship or issues between you and your ex-spouse. Family mediation might be needed in very difficult situations, but here are some general tips to make the swap easier on everyone.
CHOOSE A NEUTRAL SITE
To reduce stress on all involved—especially the children—child custody exchanges are often done on neutral ground rather than at the home of either parent.
Some potential public places for a custody exchange after divorce include:
- Your child’s school or daycare
- A large department store such as Target, Walmart, or Sears
- The local grocery store
- McDonalds, Burger King or other restaurants in your area
- The parking lot of your city’s police station or fire house
Any public area will generally have other people and/or security cameras close by, ensuring that everyone remains on their best behavior during the exchange.
Families in DuPage County, Illinois, might consider the DuPage County Family Center as an exchange site. If your divorce included mandated parent education, the Family Center provides programs to improve the relationships between parents and children.
SET SOME GROUND RULES
To make an already difficult situation a little easier, both parents can agree to certain tenets for the exchange.
One of the most important rules is consistently being on time. The site CustodyZen.com explains why this little thing can become such a big deal.
“Situations such as traffic congestion will happen from time-to-time, making a parent late for an exchange. But when one parent is consistently late it can be disrespectful to the other parent. Furthermore, it can be very stressful for the children and escalate conflict. Repeated tardiness to custody exchanges may result in legal consequences such as being found guilty of custodial interference, a crime in many states.”
Another ground rule can be that one parent remains in the car or at a distance during the exchange if meeting face-to-face will create a quarrel. Again from Custody Zen, “Depending on the amount of conflict, driving to custody exchanges can often…escalate a parent’s frustration. If one parent remains in the car the other can assist with transferring the kids to the other vehicle.”
USE A THIRD PARTY
If all else fails, have a trusted third party make the exchange.
You can enlist a reliable family member or friend, and there are now professional “supervised visitation and exchange services” in many states. Two options are the Supervised Visitation Network and Family Wise. There is a cost involved for these services, and it’s critical to ensure that the person you hire is trained and certified for the role.
It may take a little effort to create a workable child exchange, but it’s important to allow children time to be with both of the parents they love—even when the parents no longer love each other.
Contact me to learn more about handling custody situations or other issues affecting your divorce.
ABOUT ERIN BIRT
Illinois attorney Erin Birt is a skilled legal professional with over ten years of experience in trial and divorce law serving clients in many DuPage County cities including Wheaton, Glen Ellyn, Naperville, Warrenville and Winfield.
She opened the Law Firm of Erin Birt, P.C. in 2010 to offer her clients alternative divorce resolution services, specialized collaborative divorce options and family law expertise. She and her expert team continually develop creative outcomes such as divorce mediation and family law mediation that work for all parties involved, particularly children.
Ms. Birt holds a J.D. from DePaul College of Law and is a member of the Collaborative Practice Professionals of Illinois, the Collaborative Law Institute of Illinois, the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals and the DuPage County Bar Association. She is a past board member and presenter for the Mediation Council of Illinois.