Contact handovers can be a very emotive area of Child law advice Guildford. No-one likes to be apart from their child, but if the parents are now separated then this will unfortunately, become a reality for at least a part of their time. Children have a legal right to spend time with both parents, subject to parental responsibility, so you will need to put your personal feelings aside and learn how to manage the handovers to avoid conflict and make them as easy and comfortable for your children as they can possibly be.
Contact handovers are where you are either dropping your children off to, or collecting them from, your ex partner to spend time with you. It is one of the few times where, as ex partners, you will be in face-to-face contact with each other, in front of your children. Obviously if your separation has so far been acrimonious and combative, then this can be a volatile time for everyone, but your children's needs should be your priority and you should both keep this in mind. It won't do anyone any favours in the long run if the handover becomes a battleground and stressful for you and your children alike. Your children will be seeing the two people they love the most, together and the last they need is to be in a point-scoring, or argumentative environment during the handover. It will just leave everyone stressed and dreading the next handover – your children included.
You may think that they will not notice what is happening, especially of they are young, but this is not the case. They will pick up on a bad atmosphere and react accordingly. This can lead to long term problems with the handovers and put them off future visits. With a little planning there is no reason why the handovers cannot be handled effectively, with minimum stress for all concerned.
The venue is very important. If it cannot be at the home, then it needs to be somewhere suitable, preferably familiar to the children. A relatives house, for instance a grandparents, is a good choice as it will be familiar, comforting and likely to have toys and personal effects of the children there already. If this is not an option then a public place, maybe a park or a family friendly restaurant can be an option too. Make sure the venue is suitable for both of you. As expert Child law advice Guildford lawyers, we will help you through all aspects of your situation.
If your relationship is at the point where no contact between the parents is advisable, then you will need to look at a child contact centre. The parents will not need to meet, or even see each other, as the handover will be made with the staff and they will pass the children between the two of you. The children will then brought back to the centre after the visit and the handover back to the other parent made, again with no contact between the parents.
Be on time with a handover. Lateness from either party is an area that can instantly create an atmosphere and/or argument. It can also be incredibly stressful for the children involved too, wondering where you are and if you are coming. If you are going to be late, for whatever reason, then you need to keep everyone informed, it is a common courtesy and can help avoid disagreements occurring. As Child law advice Guildford experts, we can help you to arrange your contact handovers in a calm and non combative environment.
Make sure the children are aware of what will be happening and what to expect, especially the first few times you are arranging things. Let them know exactly when the next visit will be and where you are meeting the other parent. Keep them informed of things you have planned, things like meals out, birthdays, holidays etc but don't get them excited about things that may not happen.
Communication between the parents is important as the children will be witnessing it. YOU may not be happy at them spending time with your ex partner, but your children will be, so be very careful of giving off negative vibes about them as it will only confuse your children. Try not to have a 'silent' hand over where you do not speak, even if you can just limit the conversation to things like homework, or what they ate, it is better for your children to witness you at least speaking civilly, rather than a wall of silence and stony faces. You can always use a parenting diary to communicate between you too. This could include things like, handover dates and times, favourite foods, any extra curricular activities they have that week and who is dropping them off/collecting them from there etc. You can also put things like homework, or a clothing list to be checked off before return – basically anything that is relevant to the two of you can go in there to make the handovers easier and less stressful for everyone involved.
Be prepared for your handover, make sure that you have all clothes, toys, books etc. ready to hand over at the designated time and that you don't have to go scrambling around looking for them whilst keeping the other parent waiting.
Never ever bad mouth each other in front of the children. It does not matter how much you now dislike each other, or how much you disagree, you once loved each other enough to make your children and they MUST come first in any decision and situation you find yourselves in. Do not question your children about your ex partners activities during their visit, they are no longer your concern.
There is no hard and fast rule to approaching contact handovers. Each couple will be different and you will need to develop your personal situation over time. You may be lucky and succeed straight away, many people do, but be prepared to work on it over time to establish a happy handover environment for your children. Don't get caught up in negativity and remember to keep smiling.
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