If you and your ex-spouse share custody of your children, you must pick them up at the beginning of your parenting time and drop them off after your visit concludes. You should not, however, leave the location of the exchange site to chance. 

To minimize conflict, you should designate an exchange location in your custody agreement or parenting plan. While you may choose to exchange your children virtually anywhere, good hand-off sites typically have four things in common. 

1. Convenience 

Because co-parenting agreements often split parenting time evenly, you may need to exchange your kids once or twice per week. Therefore, your custody hand-off site should be a convenient place. Picking a site that is roughly equidistant from your home and your ex-spouse’s residence is probably a good idea. This approach also helps your children stick to a predictable routine. 

2. Neutrality 

Until you have a few exchanges under your belt, you probably should not pick up or drop off the kids at either your house or your ex-spouse’s home. Instead, you should consider picking a neutral location. The children’s school or a shopping center are likely good options. 

3. Safety   

When exchanging your children, you do not want to jeopardize anyone’s safety. If you have reason to believe your ex-spouse may be dangerous or unpredictable, opting to hand-off the kids in a well-lit, public space, like a police station, is wise. Similarly, you must be sure the exchange site does not expose you or your children to harsh environmental conditions. 

4. Fun 

If you regularly must wait for your ex-spouse to arrive at the exchange spot, your children may become restless. Therefore, you may want to pick a hand-off location that has some entertainment options. Public parks and playgrounds often work during summer months. In the wintertime, an indoor space, such as a restaurant, may make more sense. 

While a convenient, neutral, safe and fun place is likely idyllic for a custody exchange, you and your ex may not agree on the location. If you have a disagreement, mediation or another collaborative process may help you find the right place to swap the kids.