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What to know about high-conflict custody exchanges

Exchanging custody of your children can be an incredibly complicated and stressful process for parents who do not get along with each other. It's difficult enough to say goodbye to your children or see them sad to leave the other parent; having any sort of interaction with someone you hate or distrust only makes the situation worse.

Under these circumstances, it can be necessary to take additional steps and precautions to ensure your custody exchanges are safe and as free from conflict as possible.

Ways to minimize conflict

There are some fairly simple ways to keep your exchanges civil. First, prioritize your child's experience. He or she can be struggling with feelings of guilt, anger, sadness, grief and other complex emotions; seeing parents fight can only add to their pain and anxiety.

Keeping exchanges brief and in public can take away any opportunity for parents to lash out at each other. Similarly, you can have a neutral third party facilitate the exchange to prevent any potentially serious altercations.

Finally, save any discussion about custody schedules or money for after the exchange when you can talk away from the children. Talking about them in person only invites conflict and drama, which you should avoid.

When exchanges get complicated

If you find that exchanges are becoming contentious, volatile or otherwise complicated, you may need to take aggressive steps to protect yourself and your child. You might consult a law enforcement officer, or you can explore the options for adjusting parenting schedules or modifying custody orders to reflect what is in the best interests of your child.

When in doubt, know your legal options

Custody exchanges will likely never be calm or easy when parents do not get along. However, they should not put the rights or safety of anyone in jeopardy. If your exchanges have, or if you fear that they will in the future, talk to your attorney to assess your options as soon as possible.

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