How to Help Keep Child Custody Exchanges from Becoming Confrontational
Child custody is a major source of contention for separated parents. During and after divorce proceedings, child custody exchanges can present an opportune moment for parents to unleash their hostility on one another. However, children are the ones who suffer in high conflict custody exchanges.
At the Pedrick Law Group, APC, our child custody attorneys in Orange County understand the emotional nature involved. When child custody exchanges continue to be confrontational over a long period of time, the likelihood parents will return to court to modify their agreements increases.
You can minimize the hostility between you and your ex-spouse during child exchanges by following tips that have helped our clients.
5 Ways to Keep Emotional Custody Exchanges from Hurting Your Child
When a family unit falls apart, many children are resilient and able to handle the trauma in a reasonable manner. However, when a child is frequently exposed to high-conflict custody exchanges, they can suffer anxiety, sleeplessness, and have trouble in school.
With the divorce rate at 2.7 per 1,000, according to the latest reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is important for parents to work together for their child’s well-being.
To help maintain stability in your child’s life, here are some ways to avoid conflict during child custody exchanges:
- Make a detailed exchange plan that can be used long-term.
A set routine can prevent conflict in a number of ways. Routines can reduce stress, anxiety, and limit the amount of communication needed between antagonistic exes.
Without a routine, parents are left to constantly create a new schedule every week that may not work for the other, leading to more tension and stress over forming a new plan every week. It may seem better to be flexible with the child custody exchange. However, creating a new drop-off and pick-up point or time every week involves a greater level of communication. If you and your ex do not get along, the additional time texting or speaking on the phone can lead to unnecessary conflict.
The greatest benefit to a set schedule is that children thrive on routine. After a big transition, a routine can help a child feel secure and safe. When they are unable to see both parents every day, knowing when they will see each parent can give them peace of mind. If a child can trust their routine, it can give them the confidence to focus on playing, school, and growing.
To build a routine, you must choose the same place and time for each exchange. Some questions to keep in mind:
- Will this time and place be convenient for both parents’ work schedule long-term?
- If the child is young, will this schedule work when they start school?
- If the child is older, will this schedule work with any after school activities or future after school activities (sports, dance, piano, recitals, tutoring)
- Is the exchange point neutral for each parent? Does it take each parent about the same amount of time to arrive at the destination, or does it unfairly favor one or the other?
- Will the schedule work for holidays and other special events?
- Make your place of exchange a public destination.
Another good tip is to make the exchange point a place near people. In most cases, people are less likely to engage in antagonistic behavior in front of others. People may not want to draw attention to themselves or may feel shame if they feel strangers are judging their behavior.
Some public places to consider are:
- Restaurant parking lots
- School or daycare
- Park or playground
- Coffee shops
- Grocery store
- Try not to trigger separation anxiety in your child during the exchange.
Children, especially young children, can experience separation anxiety when taken from one parent to the other. Even handing your child to the other parent to tie their shoe can trigger an onslaught of tears and screams.
It is important to know separation anxiety is a part of development for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. Young children are most susceptible to throwing a tantrum when hungry, tired, or sick.
However, there are ways to help keep child custody exchanges running smoothly, including:
- Keep exchanges quick and simple (try to save the big kisses and bear hugs for later)
- Keep the same routine and do not alter the schedule (this is a normal part of development, and it is better they trust in the same routine in the long term)
- During the exchange, give the child your full attention when saying a quick and loving good-bye
- Be specific about when they will see you again in a way your child can understand
- Instead of saying, “I will see you in three days,” say, “I will see you after 3 nighttime sleeps.”
Older children can experience separation anxiety and stress, as well. Following the same routine can help an older child feel secure when they can trust the same schedule.
Older children are also vulnerable when parents attack or degrade the other in front of them. Children may begin to direct their anger and fears after a divorce towards one parent or the other. Keep children out of the middle and away from as much conflict as possible.
- Follow court orders as written.
One big contention between parents is following the court order or being flexible with the schedule. While flexibility may be well-intended, over time, it can cause tension and unnecessary stress.
Also, if you routinely break the court order, you may nullify its enforceability. A few changes in the exchange process can easily lead to arguing months down the road. One parent may feel entitled to change the schedule while the other wants to return to the original order. Many exes have found themselves back in court, costing parents more money and more stress.
- Use a school or daycare as a buffer.
If the relationship between you and your ex-spouse is too volatile, using a school or a daycare as a buffer zone can be a last resort option.
In this scenario, one parent can drop off the child while the other picks up the child. Following this routine strips contact and communication between exes down to the bare minimum. While there are other factors to consider, like holidays and times when daycare or school are closed, it can be an option to help minimize any confrontations.
Contact Our Child Custody Attorneys Today
At Pedrick Law Group, APC, our Orange County child custody attorneys understand exchanges are highly emotional and sensitive. While children may experience separation anxiety and other ailments from the exchange, parents also feel the stress of separation.
It is important to have a set routine for everyone that can last long-term. Speak with our compassionate team today to discuss your needs and wants in a child custody exchange plan. We can help create a plan that benefits both parties and minimizes stress and confrontation.
Schedule a consultation today by clicking here or calling (818) 276-9051.