Along with a whole host of other details that are often overlooked when it comes to preparing a child custody agreement, is the child custody exchange.  People rarely consider the pitfalls associated with the child custody exchange when your ex-wife or ex-husband is one of the high-conflict variety, but they are important to plan.  For those who are currently going through a high-conflict divorce or have lived through a high conflict divorce and custody battle, you probably already understand how frustrating, and even frightening, these exchanges can be.

So, what preventive measures can you take to remove the risk and the frustration associated with improperly planned child custody exchanges that are also not provided for in your child custody agreement? There are many answers to that question.  Your options to maximize your safety, the children’s safety, and minimize opportunities for conflict are many.  We’ll suggest a few here.

  1. The “No-Contact Child Custody Exchange
  2. The Highly Public Location Child Custody Exchange
  3. The Police Station Child Custody Exchange

Before I summarize each, the one place you should avoid having child custody exchanges is at one or both parents homes.  You’re unlikely to have readily available witnesses.  You’re likely to be at the highest risk of poor behaviors from the high-conflict ex when you’re on their turf (or they’re on yours).  Remember, the goal is to maximize safety of everyone and to minimize the potential for conflict.

The No-Contact Child Custody Exchange: This one is perfect for school-aged children and any number of different custodial arrangements.  The best example we can give for this is with a weekday child custody exchange that is done at school.  For instance, making exchange day a Friday or a Monday allows for each parent to have maximum weekend time for the child.  More importantly, it means that neither parent has to encounter the other.  Parent A drops the child off at school in the morning and Parent B picks the child up at the end of the school day.  No muss, no fuss.

The Highly Public Location Child Custody Exchange: Like it or not, big brother or big sister is always watching us.  There are public cameras proliferating throughout the nation.  If you look around during the course of your day, you’ll see them – everywhere.  When your ex is high-conflict but also still concerned with appearances in public, pick an appropriate child custody exchange time along with a well-traveled public location.  A supermarket or mall parking lot is almost guaranteed to not only have security cameras everywhere, but a lot of foot traffic with people going into and out of the stores.  With all those eyes around, outrageous outbursts are far less likely to occur without there being a lot of witnesses and the potential for repercussions for the high-conflict ex-spouse.

The Police Station Child Custody Exchange: When you truly fear for the safety of yourself or your children, have had to endure a physical and/or verbal assault, or have otherwise been threatened with harm – your local police station is an ideal place for a child custody exchange to maximize your family’s safety.  While we have occasionally received feedback from people who have been told by their friendly neighborhood police department that they don’t allow or won’t allow child custody exchanges at the station, the fact remains that police stations are a public location.  It is their job to protect and serve.  Further, they literally cannot stop you from doing so.  The bottom line is the response time for an unfortunate event occurring at the police station is going to be faster than it would be anywhere else.  If you have reason to truly fear your ex-wife or ex-husband could violate the law during a child custody exchange – make the child custody exchange location at the law’s parking lot.  Better still, the public lobby of the police station.

There are a number of other methods to keep yourself safe, protected, and have evidence if something bad should happen during a child custody exchange.  Today, we simply wanted to cover the actual child custody exchange location options that are far better than “home” if you’re ex-partner is a high-conflict personality.