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Designated child custody exchanges promote safety, harmony

Divorced parents with young children know that custody arrangements are a long-term issue. As much as you might like to move on with your life without seeing your ex-spouse on a regular basis, shared child custody guarantees that the two of you will have to communicate regularly.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing, especially because co-parenting should be a cooperative effort to raise your children to be happy, well-adjusted adults who have good relationships with both parents. But especially in those first years after your divorce, dropping the kids off and picking them up on holidays and weekends can be stressful for you, your ex and your children. You may disagree on big or small issues, such as when the kids should do their homework, how late they should be allowed to stay up and what time their visitation ends. Perhaps you regularly get into arguments at exchange time or would rather not deal with your former spouse's new partner. Whatever the cause of the tension, child custody exchanges can be negative for many parents and children.

They can also be dangerous. Many parents opt for a neutral pickup and drop-off point, such as a day care, school or gas station. There have been cases of children injured as they go from one parent's car to the other, especially if the parents get to arguing in a high-traffic area.

Such issues were the impetus for an official "child custody exchange zone" set up in one Wisconsin county. The Brown County Sheriff's Office created the space in its parking lot to help parents in the area. The lot has two designated parking spaces with a "neutral zone" in between. Parents can park on either side and either walk their children across or send them alone, with no risk of a traffic accident. And because the zone is set up right in front of the sheriff's office with 24-hour video surveillance, it's an extremely safe place for a child custody transfer.

The exchange zone is fairly new, but if it turns out to be a success, the county plans to establish another on the other side of town. Other states, including Texas, may want to follow suit. Until they do, it's important to designate a safe, stress-free meeting spot if you and your children's other parent need one.

Source: WBAY.com, "First 24/7 Custody Exchange Zone," Jennifer Wilson, Nov. 2, 2012

•· Our firm handles child custody, visitation and other family law issues. To learn more about our practice, visit our Dallas child custody page.

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