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This Too Shall Pass: Avoiding Confrontations During Child Transitions

child with luggage

In Washington, your parenting plan spells out how child transitions between you and the other parent will occur, including when your children will be returned to you, whether you will meet them at your home or another location, and who is responsible for transporting the children.


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Transition day – when the kids come back to your home – can be draining for everyone. Whether at the end of a weekend, or after one or more nights away, the transition between parents’ homes can be tough for kids. While they are happy to see you, they are often sad to say goodbye to the other parent. Add in “end of a long day” tiredness, and the meltdown potential escalates.

For parents already experiencing high levels of conflict, exchanging tired children is an especially difficult time. Not every child behaves in the same manner at transitions. Some become moody and withdrawn, while others are rambunctious and unwilling to listen, leading parents to become exasperated and, oftentimes, quick to anger. (Helpful Do's and Don'ts on transition day.)

So, how can you avoid a confrontation with the other parent during transitions? Ensure you have a well-written parenting plan. The parenting plan has a section for transportation arrangements that specifies where the children will be exchanged, and who should provide transportation, but that's it. There is, however, an Other details line, and this is where additional provisions may be included.

If you are uncomfortable with the other parent coming to your home, or do not want to go to the other parent’s home, set a neutral meeting point to exchange the children: the local McDonald’s, a local police station, or maybe a large, well-lighted parking lot.

If you suspect there may be conflict during the exchange, you could have the children walk to your vehicle from the other parent’s vehicle, while both you and the other parent remain in your cars. Some parenting plans have one parent wait inside a store or fast food place, while the other parent must remain outside, and the children walk through the door to meet the parent picking them up. If a child is too young to walk, you may want to have a third person carry the child to the other parent. Although this a big burden to place on another person, oftentimes problems are just between the two parents, and a third person may be neutral enough to perform this task.

A high level of parental conflict is known to cause harm to children. The main reason for additional transportation provisions is to avoid conflict and confrontations during child transitions, which is simply better for everyone.

“What if my parenting plan doesn’t have any specific child exchange provisions?” If your parenting plan has no specific provisions, you could try to write an agreement with the other parent regarding exchanging the children and include specific provisions. While this may or may not be enforceable by the court, depending on the specific facts of your case, it may help you and the other parent avoid conflict on transition days. Or, you may need to consult a legal technician or attorney to find out more about changing parenting plans.

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