Exchanging the Children
When children are sharing time with their parents in two different households, an issue which needs to be addressed is how to exchange the children. Sometimes parents share this responsibility; sometimes one parent provides all of this transportation. What follows are some possibilities and some benefits and drawbacks of each:
1. The parent who has the children brings them to the other parent at the beginning of the children's time with that parent. This results in an equitable sharing of the transportation responsibility. If a parent can do this cheerfully, the inherent message to the children is "It's okay with me for you to have time with the other parent." This solution gives the current parent the responsibility to ensure the children are dressed, have their needed belongings together, and are on time. The caution involved in this option is to be considerate of the other parent and the children and be sure you are at home when the children are scheduled to arrive. The children can hop out of the car and go to the parent's home, or be escorted to the door by the transporting parent. Coming in should be by invitation of the parent only.
2. The parent who is scheduled to have the children picks them up from the other parent's. This also should result in an equitable sharing of the transportation responsibility. When it is comfortable for the parents, this option may allow a child to show a parent her room, a recent project, etc. This also allows the "receiving" parent to borrow special equipment like bicycles and skis when they have a special activity planned. Sometimes children have difficulty with transitions and may resist being "taken away" by the other parent. Be sure the children are ready to go when the other parent arrives. The parent can pull into the driveway and tap their horn, or come to the door and ring the bell. Coming in should be by invitation of the parent only.
3. Parents meet half-way between their households to exchange the children. This results in an equitable sharing of the transportation. Where parental safety or comfort is a concern, this option allows parents to meet in a neutral or public place. Possible meeting places are a mall, a restaurant, the library, or even the police station. The possible drawback here again, is to be sure to be on time and have a clear location identified. Waiting in a public place with the children in the car is stressful. There may also be no way to reach the other parent if you are delayed.
4. Parents exchange the children at school or child care. This may be attractive to parents who are very uncomfortable with each other because they rarely have to see each other. Also the children do not have to witness their parents' discomfort or arguments. The drawback is tracking the children's belongings. Parents will need to create clarity regarding the time their parental responsibilities are exchanged in case a child becomes ill in school and needs to go home. Again, being on time is very important. A child cannot wait at the curb outside school waiting for you.
5. Parents exchange the children at a friend or relative's house at different times. This option also eliminates the parents from having to interact in person and saves the children from witnessing the parental discomfort. It also may allow the children to have some distracting playtime during exchanges. It eliminates the problem of a child waiting on the curb and provides a place for a parent to call if they are delayed. A drawback is tracking the children's belongings.
6. One parent provides all the children's transportation for time sharing. Sometimes this is seen as sharing the children's transportation needs equitably because the other parent is shuttling the children to school, extracurriculars and medical/dental appointments. Sometimes only one parent has a car.
7. A representative of one or the other of the parents provides the transportation for exchanging the children. This neutral option may allow for parental comfort and safety. Let the other parent know who is driving the children. Be sure this person is known to the children. Be clear about what that person's role is, that is, they are just chauffeuring, they do not carry messages between parents, or interact with either parent in a hostile manner.