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Handle Custody Exchange Day

How to Handle Custody Exchange Day Smoothly

Around 50% of American children will see their parents divorce during their lifetime. So if you have recently gone through a divorce, your kids are not alone.

This can signal a big adjustment period in family life so it is important to be sensitive to this. Organizing child custody plans as soon as possible will help everyone involved. Nowadays, joint or shared custody is becoming the norm in America.

This involves children spending time with both of their parents on a regular basis, which is great! However, it also means that you have to organize a custody exchange day with your ex.

This can be a challenge for co-parents, especially in the early days of divorce. Thankfully, there are plenty of things you can do to ensure that every custody exchange day runs smoothly. Read on to find out my top tips for a successful custody exchange!

Plan in Advance 

When it comes to custody exchange day, planning in advance is vital. This ensures that everyone involved in the custody exchange knows what’s happening. It also allows you and your ex to plan your time fairly. 

Ideally, try to stick to a regular exchange day and time. Having a schedule will help your kids adjust to the change easily. This means they will know exactly when they are seeing each of their parents, which minimizes confusion for them. 

As well as drawing up a schedule, you should agree on custody exchange locations. It is much easier for everyone involved to pick up and drop your kids off in the same place each time.

If you don’t feel ready to visit your ex’s house or apartment, you might want to discuss meeting in a neutral place. However, it is most important to choose an environment where your kids feel secure. If they do get upset or are finding things hard, they need to be able to express this.

When planning your schedule, you should include details of who will be doing pick-up and drop-off. This will avoid any confusion in the future.

Using a scheduling app can really help to organize custody exchange days. This ensures that everything is written down in one place so you can check it when you need to. You can also use these apps to request changes to the schedule.

Avoid Making Last-Minute Changes

Sometimes you will have to make changes to the schedule. For example, you may have a work commitment or be planning a family holiday. Whatever the reason, try to make these changes in plenty of time. 

Making unnecessary last-minute changes won’t do you any favors with your ex. This is disrespectful to their time and can leave them feeling frustrated. It also means that they have to rearrange their whole schedule. 

If you do have to make a change to the schedule, make sure you word this carefully. Here are some of my top tips for requesting a schedule change: 

  • Get in touch with your ex as soon as you know you need to make a change
  • Acknowledge that you are changing the schedule to show you appreciate their consideration 
  • Offer an alternative plan and be open to their suggestions
  • Accept that you may not be able to reschedule time with your kids if you miss a custody exchange day or weekend

Avoiding last-minute schedule changes is also important for your kids. Having a schedule and sticking to it boosts children’s confidence, development, and sense of security.

Last-minute changes to the custody schedule can be upsetting for them. After all, they want to spend time with you. Remember, your kids need to know that they are your priority.

Be on Time on Custody Exchange Day

Once you have a schedule, you must turn up on time for it. This means arriving at the specified time for picking up and dropping off your kids. 

This shows your ex that you are respecting their time with your kids. It also allows everyone involved to plan their days more easily. For example, if your kids have a playdate scheduled, they might be late if your drop them off later.

Saying goodbye to your kids can be difficult, which is often why people turn up late for custody drop-off. However, it’s important that you recognize that your ex may share these feelings. If they are also missing your kids, it isn’t fair for you to drop them off late. 

If your co-parent is picking the kids up from you, make sure you have them ready to go on time. This will make the handover smoother. It also means you will have time to focus on saying goodbye rather than hunting for spare pajamas!

Of course, being five minutes early or late shouldn’t be a problem. If you are going to be more significantly late, make sure you let your co-parent know. Or if you are running early, you will still have to wait before you pick your kids up.

Have Everything Ready to Go

Preparing for exchanges will make it much easier to be on time. If your child is out for the day or staying overnight they will almost certainly need to take things with them.

This might include: 

  • Changes of clothes
  • A comforter 
  • A water bottle for their day out
  • Their school homework

Making sure you have packed these things up before drop-off or pick-up will make things smoother. Ideally, try to do this the day before the custody exchange to avoid a last-minute rush. 

If you are regularly exchanging custody it’s a good idea to have your kids take the same bag every time. That way you are only checking in one place before your kids leave or when they come back. You can also leave certain items in there for next time.

At the beginning of shared custody, the parent who has moved out of the family home might not have everything they need. For example, you might not immediately have a baby monitor or spare clothes for your kids.

It’s a good idea to get kitted out with everything you need as soon as possible. That way you minimize how much stuff has to go to and fro between the houses.

At pick-up or drop-off, it’s a good idea to do a quick check in your kids’ bags to make sure everything is there. That way if something is missing you can quickly sort the situation out. This is much easier than realizing you don’t have something important when you’re already out and about.

Don’t Have Private Discussions in Front of Your Kids

After a separation, there will be plenty of things that you and your ex need to discuss. From childcare arrangements to financial support, make sure you keep these conversations away from the kids. 

These conversations can risk sparking disagreements that you don’t want to happen in front of your kids. Even if they don’t, they can leave your kids feeling uncomfortable or upset. Often it leaves children feeling torn between two parents, which is the last thing you want. 

Because of this, it is much better to discuss these matters at other times. It is important that you find a time to talk that works for both parents. For example, you don’t want to have the conversation in a rush or while you’re at work. 

If you are finding communication over the phone difficult, it might be easier to speak via email. When doing this, try to keep the conversation simple and focus on the practical elements in play. A mediator can also help these conversations to run smoothly.

Let Your Kids Know What’s Happening

Shared custody can be emotionally or physically overwhelming for kids at the beginning. After all, this is a big period of adjustment. However, there are plenty of things you can do to help support your kids through this period. 

Sticking to a schedule will do them a lot of good. Talking to them about what is happening will also help. 

When doing this, it is a good idea to present a united front as parents. That way your kids won’t feel caught between two households.

Try to keep these lines of communication as open as possible. Inviting your kids to ask your questions will help them talk about things. For example, you can ask how they feel about the new situation or if they have any questions about it. 

These conversations are not always easy and at times your kids may say things that are upsetting. Try not to take these things personally.

They are adjusting to the situation and might express painful opinions at times. On the plus side, sharing these opinions means they still feel like they can confide in you. This is a great reflection on the strength of your relationship with them.

You might also want to buy them a calendar or show them a schedule for their childcare. That way they can check in with it whenever they need it. If you do this, make sure you put any changes on the calendar well in advance to avoid confusion.

Discuss the Holidays in Advance

During a year, most children in the United States only attend school for 180 days. This means that for a lot of the year your children will be on vacation. During this time your custody plans may change. 

It’s important to plan your custody arrangement during the holidays well in advance. This will give you time to plan what you’re going to do with your kids. It also means you can organize practical plans, such as taking time off work. 

The holidays are a great opportunity to spend some quality time with your kids. While it might feel strange adapting to this change after a divorce, there are plenty of great ways to create new holiday traditions with your kids!

Don’t Bring a New Partner to Child Custody Exchanges

There is no saying when the right time is to start a relationship after a separation or divorce. In fact, nearly 80% of divorcees will go on to remarry at some point in their lives.

Most courts recommend that if you do start a new relationship you wait to introduce your partner to your kids. However, there are no laws against this.

That said, it is a good idea to avoid bringing a new partner to custody exchange days. Bringing a new partner may be painful for your ex-partner.

It can also be upsetting to your kids. If they are looking forward to spending time with you, the last thing they want is to immediately have to share you with someone else.

Over time, this may change. Once you are in a long-term relationship, it can be nice for your kids to see your ex and your new partner getting on. This can do wonders for blended families

However, it is important to be sensitive to everyone’s needs. While it is nice for everyone to get on in a blended family, it is important not to force this. After all, short spells of civil exchanges are much healthier than long spells of underlying tension!

Make Plans for Custody Exchange Drop-Off Days

Dropping your kids back off after a day or weekend with them can be very difficult. So it is a good idea to make plans for after you have done this. That way you will have something to occupy you. 

This might involve meeting a friend for coffee, going for a walk, or practicing some self-care. Whatever you do, make sure it is something fairly flexible. That way if plans do change last minute you don’t have loads of rescheduling to do. 

Keep These Tips in Mind for a Smooth Custody Exchange Day!

Joint custody exchange day can be a difficult day for everyone involved. Often emotions will be running high, especially early on. So it is important to be sensitive to everyone’s needs and feelings. 

Fortunately, there are loads of great things you can do to ensure that these days run smoothly.

For more help scheduling your custody exchange days, a co-parenting schedule app can really help. Sign up for a free 14-day trial of 2houses today to see just how much it could help you!

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Communication is key, this is why 2houses offers you an online messaging tool, simple, efficient and secure.


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