After a divorce there are still issues to address. One of the major issues is child custody and visitation, especially exchanges for visitations. The issues usually are addressed in the divorce settlement and the Court Mediation report. However, even though the Mediation Agreement attempts to address these issues, there are usually still issues.
I have parents who are divorced come in very often arguing about issues that occur during visitation exchanges. A majority of times these issues are addressed by the Mediation Agreement. However, many parents are still fighting with each other after their divorce is final. Typically I see this when one or both parents are not ready to let go of each other yet. Arguing over the visitation exchanges is a way to still keep them in contact with each other. However, parents do not pay attention to the price the children are paying. By focusing on visitation exchanges this puts the children in the middle of the divorce.
By focusing on visitation and putting the children in the middle of the divorce, I see children who become depressed and anxious. Often these children start acting out at school and home and their grades start to decline. Also many of these children often start drinking or using marijuana so they can numb themselves out and ignore their parents’ arguments. Most of these children ask me, why can’t they just stop fighting? They are already divorced, what else do they want?
Goldberg Jones is a very good divorce attorney who writes articles regarding issues related to divorce and how these issues impact the children and the family. He wrote a very good article regarding visitation exchange issues. I found the suggestions very good and helpful. I would recommend that divorced parents read these ideas and try them. Therefore, I have included them in this article for you to review and try. You have nothing to lose by trying and you could help reduce the stress your children experience with visitation. You may also reduce your stress and frustration and allow yourself to let go of the marriage and move on with your life.
How often visitation issues occur often depends on the custody agreement, parenting plan, and the visitation schedule. Visitation may be a couple of times a week, once a month, or only around major holidays, but it’s likely going to be a repeating event. Also how well the parents work together as co-parents and allow the divorce issues to be past issues plays a major role in determining if visitation goes easily or is a source of ongoing arguments.
In the best of times, even if both parents can be civil, custody exchanges will probably still be a little awkward. In less amicable scenarios, prepare for outward hostility that resembles the opening scene in Saving Private Ryan. Pack a helmet and prepare to duck.
In more combative circumstances, it helps to have a strategy in place to keep things civil. That’s easier on everyone, especially the kids. There are ways to cut down the amount of face time and limit the friction. It may never be easy or ideal, but it helps with stress level and peace of mind, for both the parents and the children—no kid wants to watch mom and dad fight.
- CUSTODY EXCHANGES AT THE BABYSITTER’S
In contentious situations, the more you see your ex, the more potential there is for friction and conflict. Sometimes it’s simply best not to see each other if you can avoid it. There are practical ways to circumvent this. One common approach is to make custody exchanges at a babysitter’s house or at daycare.
One parent drops the kids off and the other parent picks them up. If you schedule it right, the two of you may almost never come face-to-face. Because there are other people involved, you may encounter scheduling hurdles. Clear communication about who is picking up the kids and when is key. But once you iron out the kinks, this strategy helps limit contact and potential fights.
- CUSTODY EXCHANGES AT SCHOOL
Similar to using daycare to facilitate custody exchanges, you can use your child’s education to the same end. Again, one parent drops the kids off at school in the morning while the other picks them up after. This has the desired effect of not having to see your ex more than is absolutely necessary. It can be useful in situations where parents are prone to fighting.
Like with the child care, you’ll need to arrange this with school administrators. Schools like to know they’re handing kids over to right people. But if there is clear communication between all the involved parties, it’s possible to make these arrangements work.
- CUSTODY EXCHANGES IN PUBLIC
Many people want to avoid causing a scene in public. If you and your ex can’t handle custody exchanges without fighting, consider meeting in a public place. Choose a neutral spot where neither parent is likely to start a ruckus. If such a place exists. In some situations, nowhere is off limits, but being exposed often encourages both parties to be on their best behavior.
Where depends a great deal on the people involved. Pick a centrally located park. The mall, a restaurant, or a coffee shop where you know the regulars are all options. Extreme cases may call for supervised visitation centers or even a police station. Then again, if you just kind of rub each other the wrong way from time to time, a supermarket parking lot may work fine.
- INVITE A THIRD PARTY WITNESS
While people are reluctant to fight in public, they’re also often hesitant to start trouble in front of friends or acquaintances. One strategy that can smooth over problematic custody exchanges is bringing along a third party. A mutual friend or even authority figure can help keep the peace, especially if it’s someone who knows both parents.
If there are individuals both of you maintain a relationship with, that might be the ideal fit. This approach often serves to calm down heated emotions. And if things do escalate, having a witness never hurts.
If you do go this route, it’s important to give some thought to who you bring along. If you have a new spouse or significant other, consider the ramifications of their presence. Is that going to touch on a sore spot and ignite lingering resentment? In some situations, it might be best to ride solo instead of risking a potential fight.
- COMMUNICATE VIA ALTERNATE MEANS
Visitation, overnights, and custody exchanges often become logistical tangles. With football games, school plays, robot camp, and the many other activities children participate in, scheduling gets complicated. Pulling it off requires regular communication. If there are problems in this area, conflict often arises. When it involved kids, some level of contact must exist. Fortunately, there are alternative means of communication.
You may have mutual friends or family members willing to serve as go-betweens. Though it tends to get expensive fast, enlisting a lawyer or mediator is another potential strategy.
Thanks to modern technology, you have more outlets than ever before. If you can’t talk on the phone or in-person, email, texting, instant messaging, and other online options exist. Websites like Our Family Wizard provide shared scheduling services and online tools for co-parenting. There are even numerous smartphone apps for tracking parenting schedules and children’s activities. 6.
- PREPARE FOR CUSTODY EXCHANGES AHEAD OF TIME
Preparation in advance of custody exchanges is key. The more prepared you are, the faster and smoother they’ll go. Before your ex picks up the kids, take the time to gather everything they need for this particular stay. Whether it’s a quick overnight or a two-week vacation, make sure to gather the essentials.
Did you pack all of the regular medications they take? Do they have all the school books they need to get their homework done? That report on the solar system isn’t going to write itself. If your daughter has a baseball game, pack the mitt and cleats. If your son can’t sleep without his special stuffed zebra, it needs to make the trip. Knowing you have everything set reduces the amount of time you have to interact with someone you’d rather not see.
Think about what the kids can’t live without and send it with them. Otherwise, you risk a middle-of-the-night call or visit from your ex. If the goal is to limit the amount of contact, that defeats the purpose, doesn’t it?
After a divorce, it may be quite some time before you want to see your ex again, if ever. But when you have kids, that’s not really an option. Custody exchanges can be tough, but it’s something you have to deal with.
For the sake of the kids, for their well-being—as well as your own—it’s important to try to make these encounters as smooth and painless as possible. Have a plan, be efficient, and keep your seething emotions in check for a few minutes. Hopefully, that’s all you’ll need. Taking steps to limit conflict in a custody exchange is healthier for everyone involved.
Also remember children have been through more stress than they can tolerate. Besides the divorce, children have been dealing with mass shootings and mass shooting drills at schools for several years. In 2019, there was a mass shooting everyday (CDC). As a result children and teenagers reporting anxiety and depression disorders have reached epidemic levels (CDC). Furthermore, cutting in teenagers has reached epidemic levels and suicide is now the second leading cause of death for children 10 to 18 years old (CDC).
In addition to dealing with mass shootings, now children are dealing with the Coronavirus. No one has any answers and children have had their worlds shrink. They have had to shelter in place, schools were closed early so they have had little to no contact with their friends. Finally, they have no idea about the upcoming school year and are hearing conflicting reports. Therefore, children and teenagers have had more stress than they can handle. They need you, their parents, to put divorce issues aside and make visitation civil and for the two of you to make decisions about the upcoming school year without arguing and drama. They do not need anymore stress. Finally, if you are noticing symptoms of anxiety or depression in your children and it appears they may need professional help, please do not argue about it. Have your child evaluated by a psychotherapist who specializes in treating children and teenagers are after the examination, calmly decide what is best for your child. Please do not make it into a contest between the two of you. Put your issues aside and just focus on your child.
If you have questions about child custody or parenting plans, feel free to contact Goldberg Jones at his San Diego office.
I think these are all very valid points and important issues to consider and feeling that often occur during and after a divorce. I often recommend the same approach and encourage parents to consider the same issues in regards to their children and themselves. Divorce is a very painful experience even when it is handled well and with respect for each other. However, the truth is most children I see for divorce issues are because their parents are still hurting so they children sense it and take on the family pain trying to solve it. So please try these ideas especially during this time of uncertainty.
Dr. Michael Rubino has over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers. He is an expert in treating children who are involved in a high conflict divorce. For more information regarding Dr. Michael Rubino or his practice visit his website at http://www.rcs-ca.com or http://www.rubinocounseling.com or Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/drrubino3.