Making the “Ex-Change” Civilly

In a high-stress divorce, exchanging your child(ren) from one parent to the other is often one of the only times that you and your spouse see one another (except at the lawyers’  table or in court).

Your ability to make the “exchange” process pleasant, or at least not contentious, will impact how your child deals with the divorce.

Let’s examine some different ways to do “the exchange” with as little vitriol as possible:

  1. Be on time. Lateness causes your child anxiety and causes your spouse/former spouse discomfort.
  2. Give yourself plenty of time for the exchange. Do not expect to drop and run, both at pick up or drop off. Your child can become emotional and you might need time to comfort him. Your spouse might be late. Innumerable, unexpected issues might arise that force you to stay longer at the exchange than you had expected. Scheduling your time accordingly will make you less anxious which will translate to less anxiety for your child.
  3. Consider the locale. Exchange your child in a place that makes them feel safe and comfortable. A dark restaurant parking lot is not such a place whereas inside the restaurant feels warm and safe. Other ideas include a therapists office, a church or synagogue, or even a family member’s home. If any kind of abuse is involved make sure that the court approves the location.
  4. Give your child warning about the exchange. Remind her that it will take place, when it will take place and where. Forewarned is comforting.
  5. Do not go into the exchange with anger or anxiety. To reduce stress, use a cloud-based (and court approved) calendar to exchange information about scheduling and the exchange. What time will you be there? What should you bring? (Does your child need soccer cleats or has the game been cancelled?) Have there been any unanticipated changes to the schedule? Go to for that calendar.
  6. A divorce requires different and ongoing forms of grief. Be aware that however much you do to make the exchange easy for your child, the exchange itself punctuates the divorce and is stressful for children. Do not expect them to be entirely comfortable now or in the future.

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