Dealing with Complicated Child Custody Exchanges
Sharing custody of a child routinely presents many parents with the potential for conflict. Whether related to decisions on education or childcare, or the amount of time a child spends with each parent, points of disagreement are likely to arise.
In addition to the philosophical and custodial aspects of sharing parental responsibilities, the very act of exchanging custody of a child between parents can create a number of logistical and psychological challenges. This practical consequence of divorce is one that is easy to overlook when the parties are deciding how to allocate parental responsibilities. Moreover, these exchanges can have profound implications on the ability of parents to cooperate with one another.
Consequently, deciding where and when a custody exchange will take place is an important issue that should be directly addressed, especially if there is concern that outside factors, such as anxiety over seeing a new romantic interest or fear of an altercation, may provoke tension and thus make civil exchanges difficult, if not impossible. Certainly, the amount of interaction, which is often tied to the age of the child and the frequency of exchanges, is a big driver of the potential for conflict. Further, the context of child custody exchanges is likely to change as the child gets older, and is in less need of supervision and direction.
However, arrangements that decrease the possibility of disagreement and protect the safety of the parents and child should direct how parents approach this issue. Consider the following overview of complications parents should reflect on when formulating a plan for custody exchange, and how to handle situations where safety is a concern.
Creating an Exchange Plan
Divorced parents, by and large, do everything possible to shield their children from exposure to disputes with an ex-spouse, and continually try to mitigate any disagreement. Child exchanges, in particular, require a large amount of cooperation — parents must be willing to compromise on some points if avoiding litigation is the goal. The following questions can be used by parents to set boundaries regarding custody exchanges:
- Should the exchange take place at a designated halfway point?
- Alternatively, should the parent dropping the child off bring him or her directly to the other parent's home, or should the onus be placed on the parent picking up the child?
- Would it be better to pick up or drop off at the child's school to avoid the need for face-to-face meetings?
- For long distance custody exchanges, how should the child be transported? Plane, train or car? Should the parent releasing custody accompany the child on his or her journey? Who will bear the burden of travel costs, and if the child flies alone, how should the child be put on a plane?
The set of acceptable possibilities for a child exchange completely changes, though, if one party has a concern about his or her safety. Such fears often come in the wake of past domestic abuse or other displays of violence that can create legitimate concerns of a physical altercation at most exchange sites. This issue, balanced against the reality that Courts are reluctant to completely cut-off contact between a child and parent, means safe and neutral sites must be available to ensure no harm occurs.
Recognizing this need, the Illinois legislature passed a law to fund the creation and support of neutral child exchange sites so child transfer can occur without conflict, and secures the safety of all the parties.
DuPage County has a neutral exchange program, in coordination with the Family Court, that completely eliminates the need for parents to interact while transferring physical custody of a child. Further, mental health professionals are on staff at the site to monitor and assist in exchanges as a way to further reduce any potential for disputes.
Consult an Illinois Family Law Attorney
Issues concerning child custody and exchange are pivotal for parents, and if things get heated, legal intervention may be necessary to resolve the issue. The Law Office of Nicholas W. Richardson, P.C. represents clients in a variety of family law matters, including child custody, and is committed to helping his clients through the legal process, while protecting their rights. Do not hesitate to contact a passionate Palatine family law attorney at the office to schedule a free initial consultation.