3 Tips to Keep Custody Exchanges from Becoming a Nightmare

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Some co-parents are really good at pushing buttons, and there’s no worse time for playing these games than during a parenting time exchange. Having a yelling match with your child’s other parent in front of your children is not what you want. Ideally, you want the time they spend with you to begin and end on a happy note. So what can you do when your co-parent parent is spoiling for a fight?


First, mentally prepare yourself not for a battle, but for keeping your cool! Some women feel comfortable yelling, insulting, calling names, or otherwise tearing a father down in front of his children. Dads need relief, but it’s important to choose wisely. If you try to ignore it until you break, you could wind up blowing your top and making matters much worse, and even losing access to your children entirely. So here are three ways to protect yourself and your child during custody exchanges.

1. Leave your temper at home. You may be hurt and angry, but the proper place to vent that is with a therapist or a close friend—not with your ex in front of your child.

2. Find a secure, public location for child exchanges. While a parking lot is a neutral space, a police station, courthouse, or even a library can intimidate an angry ex into behaving herself. You can even find a supervised exchange center, where a psychologist or law enforcement officer acts as a neutral third-party who deals with each parent separately.

3. Bring a witness or make a recording. You can’t always take a friend or family member with you for a custody exchange. That’s why more parents today use their phones to make recordings. Knowing they’re on video helps keep abusive people from acting out. Evidence of abuse can be used for protective orders or as evidence during family court proceedings. (States have their own laws on recording conversations though, so talk to a lawyer before using a body cam or voice recorder.)

If your ex’s behavior crosses into physical abuse or credible threats, you may be able to secure a restraining order you can use to create additional safeguards, like requesting that she pay for supervised custody exchanges. But this is only a last resort because you don’t want your kids to think ill of their other parent (really, you don’t).

The above tips may seem simple, but if you start using them you will find that you can usually diffuse all but the most egregious situations, and have civil, even eventually harmonious, exchanges.

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