Very few people go into a child custody situation wanting it to be contentious. Most people would prefer to peacefully transfer their child from one parent to another, with as little drama as possible.
Unfortunately, human beings and human feelings get in the way, and there are few relationships more fraught than those between former romantic partners. That's why child custody exchanges can so quickly turn ugly. Old resentments surface, jealous feelings arise, and frustrations with each other's parenting or decision-making appear. A situation that may have always been slightly tense can quickly become an all-out argument—or worse.
Recently a former ballet dancer in south Florida killed her estranged husband during a contentious child custody exchange. The dancer, who alleges without proof that he abused her, now faces charges of second-degree murder. See Part 1 here.
Sadly, their story is far too common. Across the nation, meetings between exes to pass off their children all too often turn deadly. In Los Angeles, even a custody exchange that took place outside of a police station turned deadly.
There are steps that people can take to lessen the chances of a custody exchange turning into an argument or a violent altercation.
- Arrive on time. As simple as it sounds, making an effort to show up where and when you're supposed to can go a long way in diffusing a tense situation. And, even being just a few minutes late can be enough to push an already angry ex over the edge.
- Don't make last-minute changes to the plans. Meeting at a store instead of picking up the kids at your ex's house may not seem like a big deal, but if it inconveniences your ex, it could lead to angry words, and angry words can snowball.
- Don't discuss other issues at the exchange. Yes, your ex is there, and you've got their attention, but don't fall into the temptation of discussing changes to holiday plans, or a request for more or less child support. Those discussions are almost always better handled in other ways, at other times.
- Arrive prepared. Anyone with children knows it can be hard to get all of their belongings together and get them out the door. But, it's very important for everyone's sense of serenity that you show up to the exchange with all of your child's clothes, any favorite blankets or toys, sports uniforms and gear, and anything else your ex is expecting you to hand over.
- Do not bring dates or random people. If your relationship with your ex is so strained that you feel safest with a witness at your exchange, take pains to make sure you bring someone who will not trigger your ex or make the situation more contentious.
- Do not make your children the intermediary. Your children did not pick their parents – you did. Don't talk bad about your ex to your children.
Managing a child custody situation is difficult for even the most level-headed, emotionally detached person. Add in the feelings that often accompany seeing an ex, and most people could use some help. We're here to help you. Email or call us today at 888-535-3686.