Sharing children means that you can’t just make a clean break with your ex when you separate. You will most likely have to share custody of your children, which means you will have to see each other frequently. Custody exchanges can easily devolve into finger-pointing arguments where each spouse is desperate to try to make the other look bad in front of the children.
Don’t let shared custody become stressful for you and damaging for your children. Keep the focus on your kids and consider integrating the four following tips to help keep your custody exchanges as positive as possible.
Have a formal agreement to only discuss critical details about the kids
Striking up a conversation or even making a passing remark about something your spouse did is probably the quickest way to turn a custody exchange into an argument.
If you don’t need to immediately share information about your kids, their health or their behavior during your parenting time, then greetings are really the only words you need to exchange. Keeping everything as brief and as focused on your children as possible will help keep the negative emotions out of your interactions.
One of you can stay in the car if you can’t avoid conflicts
Even if you both agree that keeping things focused on the kids is best, it’s easier to say that than to follow through. If you still find that you argue during your exchanges despite trying to keep things amicable, it might be better for one parent to just stay in their vehicle and wait while the kids exit one vehicle and go to the other.
Have a friend, neighbor or family member help with the exchange
If you want to have hand-to-hand custody transitions where your child is constantly under the direct supervision of an adult but still hope to avoid a fight with your ex, having a friend, family member or neighbor be the one who walks the child to your ex’s vehicle or gets them out of it can be a good solution. It’s important to make sure you pick someone who can be calm and pleasant to everyone involved.
Ask for supervision if your ex is aggressive or inappropriate
If you have made every reasonable effort to work with your ex to facilitate smooth custody exchanges and they still find a way to fight with you or intimidate you during these brief encounters, you may need to ask the courts for supervised custody exchanges.
You could do custody exchanges in the parking lot of the local police station or with a state worker present in some cases. Discussing the nature of the conflict you have with your ex and your concerns about their behavior with a lawyer can give you a better idea about what tools and approaches will work best for your situation.