Why You Shouldn’t Hug Your Child Goodbye at the Child Custody Exchange…
Disclaimer: Ask me how many times I’ve heard testimony about parents peeling off with a child’s car door open. Ask me how many times I’ve heard about children being yanked out of one parent’s arms by the Other Side. Do you think that hug goodbye in the Foodland parking lot is really all that beneficial to your child when the Other Side is lobbing “Hurry the _____ up!” from across the way. We don’t excuse any of this behavior and we’re not blaming victims. But, the facts are that parents that have been ignorant of the information below have put their children in grave danger. We don’t live and work in the ivory tower that Judges, Mediators and even other lawyers think we should. We’re here to serve our clients and keep their children safe. We’re not here to make any ultimate decisions for you, your family and your children. But, please consider the following…
We totally get that hugging your child goodbye when exchanging custody should be the most normal, safe, special thing in the world. Unfortunately, after appearing at thousands of Child Custody hearings, we’ve heard of dozens of instances in which the “hug goodbye” opened up Co-Parents and Caring Relatives to unnecessary drama, bullying, police action and reports and…life threatening situations with moving vehicles and literal “tug of war” with children as the metaphorical rope.
For better or worse, it all could have been avoided if the Co-Parent dropping off had just said goodbye, hugged their kid at home and treated the exchange like the transaction that it is.
Instead, Co-Parents, in the face and presence of the individual who presents the greatest danger to theirs and their children’s psyche if not safety, choose that moment to drag out these interactions with the Other Side, rousing the emotions of a Child and almost, and maybe even intentionally, manufacturing the tearful and sometimes aggressive and sometimes even violent goodbyes that our team and the family courts hear so much about.
When there is a perfectly good opportunity to have a quiet, private moment with your child before leaving the house, we simply contend that the risks and tangible harm and discomfort of an emotional, huggy Child Custody exchange outweigh the marginal benefit.
Tip #1: If your child / children are old enough, stay in your car at the exchange.
(Put the car in park and with hands on the wheel at 10 and 2…)
“Later kiddo, tell [your mom / your dad] I said hi!”
— “Can I have a hug?”
“That’s sweet kiddo and it warms my heart. We already hugged at home. Why don’t you go hug [your mom / your dad]. Be a big girl and go on.”
Tip #2: Establish or modify your visitation order for Other Side to pick up at your residence.*
(* obviously not applicable in situations involving, inter alia, Domestic Violence or other serious circumstances; if you’re meeting at a public place, it’s all the more important to stay in your car a la Tip #1 above.)
When we can, we ask the Court to enter an order that “the Parent or Relative beginning his or her time with the children is to pick up the children at the residence of the Parent or Relative ending their time with the children.”
Here, you have that wonderful opportunity to hug your children inside your home, shielded from the Other Side. Then, send the kiddos out the door as you remain inside. (If you can’t trust the Other Side to watch over your kids from the front door to the Other Side’s vehicles then you’ve got bigger problems). Note: if heeding the advice of this article at all, Hug the kids and have them ready before the Other Side arrives. Respect the Other Side’s time as you would hope they respect yours.
Tip #3: Do Everything You Can to Treat the Exchange Like a NASCAR Pit Stop
I’m not sure I’m worried about how the pit crew “feels” when they’re trying to get Chase Elliot in and out of pit row. It’s understandably much more emotional at a Child Custody exchange, which is all the reason to have a plan and process that takes the emotion out of it and gets it done as quickly as possible.
Time and complexity is your enemy. Ask yourself, what minimal steps are absolutely necessary to get this child out of my care and control and into the Other Side’s. On a fundamental level, a showy, emotional “goodbye hug” just isn’t part of it. Yeah, that sucks. But not getting to raise your Child with the Other Side does and will always suck on certain levels, but you’re playing a shitty hand as best you can while avoiding situations that present actual danger to your child.
Tip #4: Let a Friend or Family Member Take the Child to the Exchange…
This won’t always be an option, logistically, but it will be sometimes. Give yourself a break. We know how difficult everything we’re talking about is to deal with. Let someone else, at least on occasion, carry that weight. The kiddos have left for the weekend…pour yourself a glass of wine or crack open a cold beer…say a short prayer for your kiddos…and get on about your day.
This article contains general information and should not be construed as legal advice for you and or your unique situation. If you would like to speak more about how you, as a Committed Parent or Caring Relative, can be more effective in your Child Custody case, please visit www.ThinkFoxtrot.com/public_calendars/ to schedule your initial consultation at one of our offices. ~SW, Foxtrot