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Parenting Exchanges

For separated couples with children, occasional interactions with one another are often a reality of daily life. Because these couples typically will have some form of alternating parenting time, chances are they will sometimes encounter one another when switching between each other’s parenting time. Exchanges can help provide stability and certainty by clarifying the nature of transitions. This article reviews the in’s and out’s of parental exchanges and provides some tips about potential areas of concern.

What is an Exchange?

Let’s go with a hypothetical couple — Sue and Jim. Sue and Jim have a child together, let’s call her Alicia. After having Alicia, several years pass and the couple grows apart and they divorce.  Per the terms of their parenting plan, Jim and Sue share equal parenting time, alternating on the weekends.  Exchanges occur on Sunday mornings. Now the transition between Sue’s parenting time and Jim’s parenting time on Sundays is what we mean by “exchange”. This is when Jim or Sue, respectively, will exchange their daughter Alicia with the other parent.

When do Exchanges Occur?

Parenting plans routinely include dates and times for transfers. The parenting plan will outline how much and how often each parent is entitled to exercise parenting time. Furthermore, the parenting plan will describe the frequency of when the parents alternate between their exercises of parenting time. Some parenting plans may require exchanges on a weekly basis whereas other parenting plans might call for multiple exchanges in a week. In any case, the exchange will occur when one parent’s parenting time ends, and the other parent’s parenting time begins.

Where do They Take Place?

For couples with children in school, exchanges are frequently simple. Most exchanges will require the parent whose parenting time is ending to deliver the children to school at the start of the school day. As for the exchange bit of it, the parent who is to begin parenting time will be responsible for picking up the children from school at the end of the day. This is all fairly simple, assuming both parents are available to conduct drop-offs or pick-up’s to/from school.

As for weekend exchanges, or for couples with children not of school age, things may be more complicated. In this instance, the parties will likely be required to have some face-to-face contact with one another. These exchanges can be most anywhere — curbside at one of the parties’ residences, a shopping center, a restaurant, the family’s church…the list goes on.

What Factors Influence the Terms of Exchanges?

There are many considerations that may affect the nature of exchanges. If the parties generally get along, exchanges may take place at one another’s residences. However, if the parties have a history of arguing or fighting, chances are that exchanges will be better off in some sort of public location. Furthermore, a history of domestic violence/abuse by one parent against the other may indicate that exchanges may be better suited to occurring at a police station (or other safe location).

Other than these factors, the parties’ schedule and commitments may influence the location of exchanges. If one parent has a greater amount of free time, that parent may be asked to shoulder a greater amount of the responsibility for facilitating transitions. Also, the distance between the parties’ residences and the realities of reasonable locations between the residences may influence the location of exchanges — for example, the corner of I-25 and a major exit might be in the middle of the residences, but a nearby shopping center is probably a more appropriate location for exchanges.

Final Thoughts

Exchanges for parenting time can be difficult. It may be hard to see your former partner moving on with their life. Or it may affect you as a reminder for why things went wrong between the two of you. Difficult as it may be, it is one of those realities that you will likely have to face after the two of you separate. Since you will have to interact with this other person for the foreseeable future (usually at least until your child is 19 years of age), it’s a good idea to figure out how to carry yourself.

If you have issues with parenting time exchanges, or if you have questions about how to create a reasonable plan for exchanges, take the time to speak with an attorney. Modern Family Law takes pride in its ability to offer consultations with its team of skilled attorneys, free of charge. If this post has brought about any questions for you, or if you need help with any family law matter, please get in touch with us today for a free consultation. Our family law attorneys stand ready to help you!

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