Between 2011 and 2021, the divorce rate in the United States experienced a fairly substantial decline. According to the United States Census Bureau, there were 9.7 divorces per 1000 people in 2011. A decade later, that rate had dropped to 6.9 per 1000.
Ask any parent who is divorced or in the process of splitting from a spouse, however, and they'll tell you the same thing—one of the most difficult and painful aspects of divorce is custody. Who gets it, or is it shared? Which partner will pay child support? How will visitations work, and how often will they happen? What will the holidays look like?
Where to meet up for a custody exchange?
What Factors Influence Custody Exchanges?
Before parents can even start to brainstorm good places for custody exchanges, there are a few matters that need to be hammered out. First and foremost, the relationship between the two adults must be considered. If it's an acrimonious one, or if there was spousal violence or abuse behind the separation, there are some crucial requirements that must be fulfilled.
Things are a little easier to arrange, however, for the 44% of divorced people who are on “speaking terms” with their ex, and especially for the 21% who call their erstwhile spouse a “good friend.”
When Friends Meet Up
If you are lucky enough to belong to that latter category, arranging an exchange can be a breeze. You might choose to meet at one parent's home, in a public park or recreational area, or a big playground—this is especially helpful for the children, who can struggle with being shuttled from one place to another, even in the healthiest (former) families. This way, kids can enjoy a fun activity as part of the handoff rather than dreading the ordeal and then simply go home with the other parent.
Circumstances That Call for Added Caution
Divorce and custody proceedings, not to mention the major life shifts running parallel to them, can cause an awful lot of stress to build up. It's common for a parent to blame their former partner, but if there's a possibility that violence might pop off, the custody exchange needs to happen in public, in an area with a high percentage of foot traffic, and during daylight hours. For example:
- The children's school or daycare
- A police station
- A public library
- A community center
- A big-box store
- A popular restaurant
Don't forget to take into account that the kids will likely clamor for a fast-food kids' meal or a toy from that big-box store when you arrive; if you suspect that their puppy-dog eyes and the post-divorce guilt you feel are a dangerous combination, opt for the library or police station instead.
A Few More Tips For Exchange Success
In situations where emotions can run high, it's always best to over-prepare and take every precaution. In addition to carefully choosing the exchanges' location, there are a few more tips to follow to ensure your and your child's safety:
- Bring along a neutral party, such as a mutual friend or an adult babysitter. If you're meeting at a preschool or daycare center, enlist a staff member to be present while the exchange takes place.
- Arrive on time. It's basic respect, plus it doesn't have the potential to trigger an emotional outburst the way tardiness does.
- Record the interaction with your cell phone camera (or ask your neutral third party to do so).
- Have the exchange handled by someone else; a grandparent, aunt or uncle, or even that mutual friend can help the handoff go smoothly. You'll need to work this out in your custody agreement, however.
If all else fails, it may turn out that supervised exchange is the only path forward.
Fighting for Fairness
Divorces, custody agreements, and visitation schedules can all take a stressful toll on parents. That stress all too often spills over during a custody exchange, making the whole situation even more difficult.