Even though you and your co-parent are no longer a couple, you still have to communicate and meet regularly over your children – even if it’s just for the usual custody exchanges in compliance with your parenting plan.
Unfortunately, when tensions between you and your co-parent are high, custody exchanges can become volatile. What can you do to minimize the drama? Here are some suggestions:
1. Choose your exchange point carefully
When you haven’t been able to settle into a cordial co-parenting relationship, it can be intimidating to have your ex at your doorstep – and it can be equally uncomfortable to walk up to their home. To keep either of your territorial instincts from kicking in, it’s wisest to pick a neutral exchange point.
Public venues, like outside the local grocery store or right in front of the police station can make sure that nobody feels isolated when the exchange happens (and encourage the other party to keep things civil).
2. Don’t escalate the situation unnecessarily
If you know that your ex-husband blames your mother for your divorce for some reason, don’t bring her with you when you pick up the kids. Similarly, if your ex-wife is overtly hostile to your new girlfriend, leave her at home when you make the swap.
You want to be proactive about minimizing the potential for disputes. This also means “sticking to business” during exchanges. Unless it’s directly relevant to the children and is an essential message (like what time your son needs to be at band practice or when your daughter last had her medication), don’t bring it up.
3. Accept that you need to be a little flexible
It may annoy you that your ex-spouse is always running 15 minutes behind when they pick up the kids or returns them to you (every time) needing a bath, but the court typically isn’t going to intervene in those kinds of issues unless they’re part of a larger pattern. Getting angry and frustrated at your co-parent in the presence of your children will only aggravate the situation. Try to remain flexible and overlook small issues as much as you can.
If the custody exchanges are getting too hot to handle and you’re worried about the consequences for your children, there are other options. Supervised exchanges, for example, can be ordered, so that you can maintain the peace. Experienced legal guidance can help you learn more.