The Neutral Zone: How to Handle Exchanging Kids with Your Ex
Going through a divorce is full of challenges, and life before, during, and after can be hard as you learn to navigate your new circumstances. When children are placed into the equation, it can further complicate the situation, especially if custody issues rise to the surface during the divorce process. One such complication can be putting together a plan for your custody setup, and then choosing when and where to trade off your children with your ex.
In extreme circumstances, you may choose to have someone go with you to trade off your kids, whether that is a friend or a loved one to offer support. However, in the majority of divorce situations, the process of trading off your children can be made smoother, less stressful, and an all-around better experience for you and your kids, by using a few of the following tips.
- Keep it neutral. Meeting in a neutral location, such as a local park or other public places, could help ease the tension of trading off your children with your ex. Depending on the comfort level between you and your former spouse, and how long you have been separated, there are many ways you could go about the hand-off. Older children can tell you goodbye, and head off with their other parent leaving you having little to no contact with your ex. For younger children, the hand-off could be a little harder, and that can be alleviated with the neutral location as well since it’s easier for them to walk away in a place that’s out of their “norm” vs. walking away from “home.”
- Make it positive. For the sake of your kids (and you), making hand-offs positive is worth the effort. Consider setting up a “tradition” of sorts for the drop off days, like eating at the same fun location (which could also serve as your neutral drop-off location), going to a familiar playground and enjoying time outdoors together by arriving 30-minutes or so before the scheduled pickup time with the other parent. By making the hand-off something to look forward to, your kids will struggle less with the transition and so will you. If you and your former spouse have a close relationship and are actively co-parenting, you can consider including them in your routine as well if that would be appreciated by your child. A great way to incorporate this idea is extracurricular or sporting activities your children participate in. By having both parents at their practices and games, they feel supported and it gives you a great opportunity to do the custody trade-off.
- Distract yourself. Come up with ways to keep yourself distracted during the times your children will be with the other parent. By doing so, you can make these times something you look forward to, and you can use the time to refresh and prepare for actively parenting your kids singlehandedly when they return to your care. Make plans with a friend immediately following drop off, so you won’t feel lonely and focus solely on saying goodbye to your kids for a while. Plan appointments for yourself that are hard to do with the kids in tow, take care of projects you rarely have time for, etc., and the time will pass quickly.
If you or someone you know is going through a divorce and are seeking representation and support, Sessums Law Group is here. Our legal team is skilled in family law and prepared to STAND FOR YOU, and with you, no matter the circumstances!