Tips for Making Smoother Parenting Time Transitions

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Living in two houses can be tough for a child, and one of the most difficult aspects of splitting time between parents is the transition. Children need routine — depending on their age, moving between parents can impact their sense of stability and security. However, there are certain things co-parents can do to make parenting time exchanges easier.

Here are 10 tips to help ensure smoother parenting time transitions:

1. Have a Detailed Parenting Plan in Place

By having a thoughtful parenting plan in place, you can ensure that your children are receiving appropriate parenting from each of you — and both parents have adequate bonding time. A good parenting plan shouldn’t just set forth a schedule. It should provide details regarding the custody exchange and provisions that help to limit the risk of conflict between co-parents.

2. Choose a Set Pickup and Return Time

Every family has busy schedules, especially when children get older and participate in multiple extracurricular activities. Unfortunately, conflicts often arise regarding scheduling and custody handoffs. This is why it’s important to incorporate set pickup times and return times into your parenting plan. While it’s important to be flexible, it’s best to stick to the schedule as much as possible to minimize the potential for an argument.

3. Select a Specific Pickup Location

Depending on schedules and family dynamics, it may be best to choose a neutral location where the custody exchanges will take place. This could be school, a library, or even the grocery store parking lot. By selecting a neutral location, you can make the parenting time transition less emotional than it would be if you were picking the child up from one of the parents’ homes.

4. Keep the Custody Exchange Free from Conflict

Don’t argue with your co-parent during the custody exchange. Even if you think you’re out of earshot, children pick up on tension and body language. If you and your co-parent are contentious, it’s best to limit your conversation and handle the parenting time transition in a business-like manner. Any conflict between parents should take place away from the children. Consider setting up a monthly meeting with your co-parent to discuss any custody matters that should be addressed.

5. Talk with Your Children About Their Feelings

The most important thing when considering how to structure parenting time transitions is the best interests of your children. Children often feel guilty when they leave one parent and go to the other. They should be encouraged to talk about their feelings and be assured that it’s ok for them to enjoy spending time with both of their parents.

6. Don’t Put Your Children in the Middle

You should never put your child in the middle of an argument between you and your co-parent — or try to use them as spies in the other household. Your children should not be put in the position of choosing a favorite parent or one house over the other. Don’t talk badly about your ex to your child or say anything that could make the custody exchange and parenting time transition more stressful for them.

7. Keep Essentials at Both Homes

Nothing can make a child feel more like a visitor in the non-custodial parent’s home more than having to pack a bag each time they spend time there. It can also be difficult for children to remember which items to bring back and forth. Keep a set of clothing and toiletries at each house so that your child feels at home. This can also help to reduce disagreements that could arise between parents if children arrive without an item they need.

8. Establish Routines

When you establish routines, you can provide the structure that your children need to thrive. Rather than only doing fun activities when it’s your turn to have parenting time, set the parameters for homework, chores, and other daily routines. When children know what will happen when they arrive at the other parent’s household, the parenting time transition can be much less overwhelming for them.

9. Create Boundaries

Although tensions can run high after a divorce, it’s essential to create boundaries between the old marital relationship and your new dynamic. There can be a lot of stress between co-parents, particularly right after a divorce. However, it’s crucial to cooperate, communicate in a healthy manner, and not let your feelings toward your ex get in the way of your co-parenting relationship.

10. Make Sure the Custody Arrangement Works for Your Children

It’s best to create a custody arrangement that keeps your child’s life as similar as possible to how it was before you and your ex parted ways. Even if you don’t like the terms of the custody arrangement, the most important thing is that it works for your children. Help ensure your children understand the schedule so that there are no surprises. Knowing what to expect can help to reduce any anxiety they might have and provide a sense of stability.

Contact an Experienced Utah Family Law Attorney

Co-parenting can be challenging but a solid parenting plan can help you achieve success and ensure the best interests of your children are met. Based in Salt Lake City, Barton Wood provides compassionate counsel and diligent representation to clients who are facing a wide variety of family law issues, including those involving custody and parenting time. To learn more about how we can help with your custody matter, call (801) 326-8300 or contact us to schedule a consultation.