Visitation exchanges are almost always awful for my eight-year-old when the exchange is not at school. I am a Father with fifty-percent custody. I have Mondays and Tuesdays overnight. My ex has Wednesdays and Thursdays overnight. We alternate weekends.
When school is out, we do the exchange at a local fast food restaurant. My ex almost always brings her new boyfriend with her, and he almost always says something “smart” or derogatory toward or about me. I have emailed my ex to stop these and I have asked her not to bring him. My eight-year-old hears this nonsense. What should I do?
~ Exchange Woes
Dear Exchange Woes,
It is obvious that it is not in the best interest of your child to hear the adults around him or her bickering during visitation exchanges. Your child is part of both you and your ex, and as such, he or she probably is stressed to hear derogatory comments about his or her father. Visitation exchanges should be happy for the child preparing to spend time with the other parent.
In Randolph County, several years ago, the news reported a tragedy at a visitation exchange from which we can learn. Mom and Dad both had someone else with them at the visitation exchange. The two other people got into an argument at the exchange, and one of the two other people at the exchange shot the other one (non-fatal shooting). Apparently, the child apparently witnessed this shooting.
So, what should the rules be for visitation exchanges when the parents just do not get along, or there are other troublemakers, such as your ex’s new boyfriend?
Rule 1: Troublemakers should not be at visitation exchanges, at all. Leave them home. If your ex will not do that, simply use a recording device (in North Carolina) to record the nasty comments. You, then, have evidence for court. (Note: I am saying “record” only if you are a party to the conversation and you are in North Carolina. Other states have other rules.) Then, file a motion with the court regarding the problem. This might be a Motion for Contempt of Court, depending on what your court order for custody says, or it may be a change of circumstances for the Mother eliminating emotional abuse of the child at visitation exchanges. In my experience, judges generally ban non-essential troublemakers from visitation exchanges.
Rule 2: You, yourself, should always be pleasant at the visitation exchange.
Rule 3: Unless the child needs help with luggage, you should stay in your car. Keep the windows rolled up.
Rule 4: Try to park in a place where there are other people around who are not involved in your case. There may be safety in numbers.
Rule 5: Document, with your ex, your position that the boyfriend is an unnecessary party to the visitation exchange and that you think his presence is detrimental to your child. Perhaps she will think about the child and put him or her first. If not, you have some evidence of your reasonableness when your motion is heard in court.
Good luck with your motion, if you cannot get the Mother to take care of this herself.
This blog is revised from a previous Ask Carolyn in The Rhino Times.