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Tips to Avoid Problems with Child Visitation Exchanges

Child visitation exchanges can be fraught with conflict for some parents. You need to make sure that the child gets to the other parent on time and that they have a good time when they’re there. You may even want to do your best to facilitate a good relationship between parent and child. Unfortunately, things rarely seem to go smoothly.

If you want smoother child visitation exchanges with less conflict and stress, try some of these key tips. 

1. Plan ahead.

Take the time to make a list of everything your child will need while with the other parent. Ideally, you should have some items, like clothing and toys, at each house. However, some things will simply need to travel back and forth with your child. Make sure that you have a list of what needs to get packed up–and instead of scrambling to pull it all together at the last minute, consider packing up those items ahead of time to make the transition smoother. 

Your packing list may include:

  • Clothing, if the child doesn’t have clothing that fits at the other parent’s house. This is most common if one parent only gets infrequent visits, but it can also be a problem when the child changes sizes abruptly and the other parent hasn’t had a chance to go shopping yet. 
  • Medications.
  • Special stuffed animals or toys–especially the ones you know your child cannot sleep without. Keeping these on your list–and double checking before it’s time to leave!–can prevent a mad dash across town to deliver the missing item.
  • School items like backpacks, lunch boxes, and needed paperwork, including homework.

Check your list before you leave the house and make sure that everything made it. Remember, this is for your child–and will help ensure a safer, happier visit. 

2. Choose a neutral location.

If you find yourself bickering with your former spouse, exchanging cutting remarks, or simply seething with resentment every time one of you sets foot into the other’s home, consider choosing a neutral location for your child visitation exchanges. Some people find that making the exchange at a park, a local parking lot, or a school helps cut down on potential conflict before it has a chance to arise. Others may find that exchanging at a local police station helps reduce the urge to be rude to one another. Wherever you choose to make the exchange, however, try to make it convenient to both of you–and ideally, not a place where one of you has support and the other does not. 

3. Be polite and civil to your former partner.

When you make your child visitation exchange, remind yourself that this is something that you do for your child. Your child loves both of you, and does not need to be caught in the middle of a conflict–no matter how tempting it might be to vent at your partner. 

Follow the rules of basic courtesy as you make the exchange. If you’re struggling to be civil, avoid conversing unnecessarily. Instead, keep it to the basics: share information that your child’s other parent needs to know, arrange for the next exchange if necessary, and then go on your way. The shorter you keep the meeting, the easier you may find it to avoid potential conflict.

In addition, show common courtesy to one another. Be on time. If you are going to be late for some reason–whether it’s because your child is dragging her feet or the dog ran out the door moments before you were supposed to leave and you have to hunt him down–send a message and let the other party know that you’re going to be late. Avoid going out of your way to inconvenience the other party. When possible, send clothing back clean and folded. Don’t make cutting comments or snide remarks under your breath, no matter how tempting it might be. The more civil you are, the better you can control the exchange, and the more likely you are to feel reasonable about it. 

4. Take someone with you for moral support, if you need to.

If you find yourself constantly struggling to make a child visitation exchange conflict-free, consider taking someone else with you to facilitate a more peaceful exchange. Choose a neutral party–ideally someone that neither of you will want to act out in front of. Hint: sometimes, taking your best friend–who might hold some animosity toward your former spouse–can do more harm than good. In many cases, however, having that other party on hand can go a long way toward keeping things civil while you make the exchange. 

5. Don’t make your child play messenger.

If you have a message that needs to be communicated to the child’s other parent, communicate it. Instead of making your child act as a go-between, carefully lay out anything that your other partner really needs to know. While it’s one thing to remind your child to remember something important–completing a homework assignment, finishing up a project, or even wishing someone a happy birthday for you–it’s important not to make your child feel as though they are in the middle of the conflict between you and your spouse. 

In addition, be careful about what you say to your child about your former partner. Avoid laying blame, where possible, even when you know that your child’s other parent has messed up. Your child will, over time, see patterns in behavior and learn to identify them for what they are–but in the meantime, you don’t want your child to feel caught in the middle. Is their other parent late? Did they forget to return the school uniform clean–again? As frustrating as those things might be, avoid attacking your former partner over them within your child’s hearing. The grace you show now will have immeasurable benefit later. 

Handling child visitation exchanges can be challenging, especially early on after a separation or divorce. A lawyer can help you lay out a more effective custody and visitation arrangement, including an arrangement that requires you to make the exchange in a neutral location or one that identifies a third party to help with those arrangements. Contact Besty A. Fischer, LLC today to learn more.

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