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How can you stay safe during a custody exchange?

Custody of the children is one of the most hard-fought areas in family law. Quite understandably, emotions can run very strong whenever there's a dispute over custody and visitation rights. That can make for a volatile encounter between the parents whenever it comes time to exchange the kids for their visitation time.

What can you do to make sure that you -- and your children -- are safe during a custody exchange? Here are some suggestions:

1. Be respectful of the other party.

No matter how you feel about your children's other parent, remain cordial during the exchanges.

Show up on time and limit your conversation to only important things involving the children. (If there's any big issue, don't try to deal with that at the custody exchange. That's intruding on the other party's time with the kids and could provoke more anger.)

2. Choose who goes to the exchange carefully.

Does your ex hate the very sight of your new partner? Has your mother verbally tangled with your ex in the past? Leave them at home when you make the exchange. You don't want anyone with you who will make the situation worse.

Do take someone you trust with you to the exchange. Just having another person around can automatically encourage someone to behave more respectfully. (If absolutely necessary, you may be able to ask a peace officer to be present during the exchange.)

3. Look for other ways to limit your contact.

If you're really not convinced that you and your ex can remain civil long enough to make the exchange by yourselves, consider asking someone else to make the exchange while you wait in the car. Pick a safe spot, like a police station, where there are people around who can prevent a situation from turning violent.

Child custody issues can be difficult to navigate. You shouldn't try to do it alone. Find out how an experienced litigator can help.

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