by Erik Carter, JD, Cordell & Cordell, PC
Parenting time exchanges are supposed to be smooth and uneventful. Custodial parent provides the children – non-custodial parent takes them off. Non-custodial parent brings the children back – custodial parent takes them back home. Simple, right?
Well, not unless one of the parents decides that this is just the perfect opportunity to confront the other one about what ever happened last week. Because she won’t return your phone calls, reply to your emails, or answer the door when you knock. So parenting time exchanges are your only opportunity to tell her exactly what you thought about what she said to her friend about what a bad father you are. And, of course, the children need to see all of it. Because you have nothing to hide from your kids, right?
Think about it. So far, every statement you have made has been twisted around against you. Every enjoyable weekend with the kids has turned in to an accusation of endangerment or neglect. Every time you have approached her with a logical, rational, win-win solution, she has thrown it back in your face. So WHY would you EVER think that she is going to agree to anything at a parenting time exchange? Seriously. That is the WORST possible time to talk to her about anything. Don’t do it. Especially if SHE wants to talk to YOU, because that has "set up" written all over it. Just transfer the kids and go home. If she wants to talk, give her the "call me" gesture and get in your car. Because unless your children are on fire, there is nothing that needs to be discussed at the parenting time exchange that can’t be talked about over the phone later.
Parenting time exchanges are also not the time to bring your new girlfriend around. Your children will have all weekend to get to know her. But beginning the process at a parenting time exchange is only asking for trouble, and most likely – trouble is dropping the kids off to you. If you want your ex to meet your new girlfriend, then set up a time and place away from the children.
What if she brings her new boyfriend to the exchange? Ignore him. Completely. If he is a new boyfriend, he has nothing to say to you, especially in front of the children. And you really don’t have anything to say to him that can’t wait until another time and place.
Finally, don’t show up smelling of alcohol. Even if you just had a beer on the way home from work, you don’t need an accusation that you are showing up to the parenting time exchanges intoxicated. Or – worse – you don’t need her to call the police after you have left with the children, and be pulled over. Even though your BAC may not be "over the limit," some states – and some courts – can, and do, consider this a form of "endangerment" to the children. Fighting this accusation will be expensive, and you really don’t do yourself any favors with the Court by having the judge you just weren’t drinking enough to be a danger to the children.
These are some tips to make the parenting time exchanges go a little smoother and less traumatic to the children. They also remove vulnerabilities for her to bring you back to court and seek to cut down on your parenting time.
Erik H. Carter is a Senior Attorney of the Cordell & Cordell, P.C. office in Indianapolis, Indiana. Mr. Carter has practiced since 1993 as an attorney. He is licensed in Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania as well as the Northern District of Indiana and the Southern District of Indiana. Read more