Exchanging Children Without the Hassle

Parent battles during custodial exchanges can create stress for the child. This stress leads to emotional withdrawal, physical complaints, panic, fear, age-regression and acting-out. Children have a right to pleasant, low-key exchanges as they spend time with each parent.

Conflict during exchanges inflicts distress and anxiety on all involved. Children pay when adults lose control of the situation. Parents have a role to play in reducing the stress their child experiences during custodial exchanges.

Your child is always present during exchanges.
Keep it child-friendly.

How & Where…good idea or bad idea?

At Home: Exchange at parents' homes is a good idea when parents are respectful. It's a bad idea if parents argue. Instead of doorstep confrontations, permit your child to walk between doorstep and curbside while parents stay apart. An impartial substitute, such as a family member or friend trusted by both parents, can also be used to make exchanges on your behalf.

At School or Child care: Low conflict exchanges are the priority. Exchange at locations where parents come and go separately. Arrange with your child's school or care provider to help out. Be appreciative and respectful to those assisting your child with exchanges.

At Police Stations: Police stations are not good places for exchanging children. People in distress and under arrest frequent police stations. It's a scary place for children. Officers are generally in the field and not on hand. Staff is not trained to monitor exchanges. They are reluctant to intervene unless a criminal offense is involved.

Other Neutral Locations: Public places encourage best behavior. Pick a spot that is well lit and where people are present. Watch out for vehicular traffic while on foot in parking lots.

Avoiding Trouble

Focus on your child and your child's comfort. Save questions and discussions with the co-parent for another time outside of your child's hearing.

Do Mission Control. Know the schedule and how to contact the other parent in case of emergency. Have your child's clothing, supplies, medicines, homework, etc. ready to go.

Safety is a priority. Transportation should be in a licensed and insured vehicle with appropriate safety seats and/or restraints operated by a licensed and sober driver.

Keep it to yourself. Think of your child. Don't argue with the co-parent or take the bait if the co-parent wants to argue with you in front of your child. Don't bring companions who cause trouble.

Have a way to communicate. Communication is the responsibility of the parents. Do not put this on your child! If you can't talk with the co-parent find another way. Try email. Use an impartial go-between or go to mediation.

Recommendations for Child-Friendly Exchanges

Keep it simple. Exchanges are low-key, courteous, and business-like…like a pizza delivery. Follow the same routine every time.

Know the schedule. Keep a detailed calendar to reduce confusion about exchange times. Arrange changes to the schedule in advance.

Be packed and ready. Your child should be ready to go with appropriate clothing and supplies for use in the other parent's home. Parents should have a plan for handling activities and homework assignments between homes.

Plan on delays. Allow for traffic and other delays. Try to be on time and keep late exchanges to a minimum. Be flexible when the unforeseen happens.

Think ahead. Things come up. Scheduling is the parents' job. Work it out before the exchange time and outside your child's hearing.

For more information

Consult these resources to find a way to handle exchanges appropriately:

Transitions Visitation Center (816-736-8400)

This is a child-friendly program for families who are unable to handle visits or exchanges without exposing children to stress and conflict.