One of the most complicated aspects of shared parenting is making pick up and drop off go as smoothly as possible. Emotions can be high for everyone involved, especially in the beginning, and very often this is the time and place that altercations occur.
Every family and situation is unique, but there are several things you can do to make the transition easier on you and your children:
Choose an appropriate venue
The simplest venue is curbside at the home of either parent. This is ideal for the children because it simpler and makes the exchange less of an event for the children. In an effort to make transportation fair I usually suggest that whoever’s parenting time it is the one who picks up the children. Dad picks up from moms house during his parenting time then mom picks them back up from dad when it’s her parenting time.
However, depending on the family’s history, this may not be appropriate.
In high conflict situations a public place may be the better option. Ideally this is not a permanent situation, but a temporary solution until the parents can exchange the children without fear of altercation.
Often people choose a neutral location such as a park or parking lot of the school or a fast food restaurant. In cases involving orders of protection the exchange may have to be made at the local police precinct.
Before deciding on one of these venues, seriously consider the effect it will have on your children.
Be on time
This is the biggest complaint about pickup and drop off during parenting time exchanges. Lateness causes and tension that can lead to unnecessary arguments and altercations. If you are going to be late give appropriate notice and make sure you don’t make it a habit.
Openly Communicate with Your Children
The most difficult part of divorce for children is when they don’t feel secure and they don’t know what is going to happen. Children need structure and they want to know what is going to happen next so it’s important to fully explain the shared parenting arrangements with them.
Exchanges can be very difficult for children because they often feel torn between both parents. It can feel like a betrayal to be happy to see one parent or sad to leave the other. The best thing you can do is to encourage children to share their feelings without fear of hurting you.
Allow them to talk about their time with the other parent without pumping them for information or making negative comments.
Openly Communicate with the Other Parent
Communication is essential to co-parenting. Even if you hate your ex, you have to be able to discuss issues regarding the children. If the exchanges aren’t going well because the children are upset or the schedule is cumbersome, address the problem with the other parent and try to reach a resolution before allowing resentment to build or running back to Court. In high conflict situations, a text or e-mail exchange may help.
No Parenting Plan is going to be effective forever. The needs and desires of the children changes as they get older and you will need to allow for flexibility over time. The goal of an effective parenting plan is the best interest of the children and this can be accomplished if the parents are willing to adapt to the needs of their children.