My ex-wife and I recently went through a bitter custody battle that took place over a long period of time. I was awarded visitation with my children, which begins soon. I’m concerned about visitation because I know it means interacting with my ex-wife. Do you have suggestions for making visits go smoothly? My children do not need more conflict and I want peace. – Desperate for Détente
Dear Desperate for Détente,
Unfortunately, visitation exchanges can be a time of hostility between separated/ divorced parents. After all, now both parents have to follow schedules and rules about who gets to see the child(ren), how, and when. Sharing a child or children is not easy, but there are some tips both parents can implement to reduce the risk of increased conflict surrounding such a sensitive topic.
1. Be polite. Watch what you say, and what you do, in front of the other parent keeping in mind the less said the better.
Saying something unkind to the other parent may be a satisfying way to vent frustration or anger. However, doing this, especially in front of the child(ren), almost certainly never helps your case and most definitely harms your child(ren). Not only are you likely to hear something about it from the other attorney, the judge will probably learn about it as well. If you’re tempted to unleash on the other parent, stay calm and hold your tongue.
2. Similarly, you should not use the exchange time to try to resolve difficulties with the other parent even if the two of you can be civil. Plus, if you’re the visiting parent, you only have so much time with your child. Why waste it trying to litigate your case?
3. To minimize the risk of miscommunication about exchange dates and times, use a mutual calendar like Google. Use of a joint online calendar that contains the information on the dates, times, and locations for visits is ideal since it places the information in a black and white context. It also limits the exchange of anything other than the necessary details, unlike text messages. The joint online calendar can also be used for scheduling child appointments, vacation / out town information, school dates, and so forth further reducing miscommunications and errors in scheduling.
4. At the end of visitation, send a short email update to the other parent summarizing the visit’s pertinent details about anything you as a parent would want to know. Did someone not feel well? Is the homework completed? These types of updates are helpful to show transparency and a willingness to share information, which can help lessen hostilities between the two of you.
Typically, the worse the custody case the longer it takes to achieve peace. But with patience and determination, it is a distinct possibility. The best way to stay calm is remind yourself that what you are doing is not just for you, but for your children. Good luck!
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is general in nature and not to be taken as legal advice, nor to establish an attorney-client relationship between the reader and Jennifer L. Fleet or Weaver | Budd, Attorneys at Law. Submit your questions for The Fine Print to: firstname.lastname@example.org