In high-conflict circumstances, it’s best to do exchanges where face-to-face meetings are not necessary. Absent that option, we strongly recommend neutral locations, highly public/visible, somewhere between you and your ex-partner.
In my case, I live approximately 20-25 minutes from “Jane.” The schools are positioned at points between us. Exchanges are done at a neutral location between us. Both of us can deliver the children to important places without unreasonable circumstances (like getting the children up at 3AM to get ready for school).
Exchanges are typically done on Sundays. In a high-conflict situation, we always recommend a highly-visible, safe, neutral location. However, they could be done on Friday evenings, coordinated with the end of the school day on Friday. In such a situation, there is no face-to-face exchange, which is the absolute ideal in a high-conflict situation. Dad drops child(ren) off at school or daycare in the morning, Mom picks child(ren) up at school or daycare in the evening.
Choose a specific time that is agreeable to both of you if you must do a face-to-face exchange in the method described above. Prepare to be flexible and ready to wait! Particularly with a high-conflict ex-partner. Depending upon your proximity to one another, we would suggest that a 30-minute buffer (max) is not unreasonable for parents who live reasonably close to one another. For longer distances, we would suggest as much as 60-minutes be considered as a buffer to allow for traffic snarls. We’ve done both and, despite the high-conflict nature of our specific situation, abuse of the “buffer-zone” has been minimal. When we were longer distance (4-hours, meeting half-way), we have very few traffic, weather, or other snarls that would impact a reasonable arrival time. If you’re long-distance and just starting out, expect that it will take several exchanges to determine actual driving distances for each party to the exchange point and then you can coordinate departure times to minimize waiting.
If one party deliberately fails to show up at an exchange that is required by the order, we urge you to stop by the nearest store and buy something small to prove that you were at the location. Purchase that item when you have reached your limit for waiting and realize the exchange will not be taking place so that you have evidence demonstrating how long you’ve waited before departing. Write a summary of the circumstances, attach your receipt and prepare to file a contempt motion for custodial interference.
In some cases, one party may be required to do all of the driving and deliver the child to the other party’s door. You follow the court order. Hopefully, if you’ve prepared a parenting plan with the focus on minimizing conflict and keeping everything safe for all, a judge will consider a neutral exchange location close to the receiving parent’s home.
Other things to consider?
- What happens if child doesn’t want to go, do you force?
- What happens if child is sick?
- What happens if parent is sick?
These issues and more can be discussed on our forums and stop back for further updates to this page.