Managing your contact handovers can be a stressful time for many newly divorced couples, with a myriad of emotions still bubbling below the surface and it is likely to be the only time you will need to interact with your ex spouse post divorce. As experienced child law advice Guildford lawyers we can help you to manage this situation successfully.
It is an unfortunate side effect of a divorce that, for at least part of the time, you and your children will need to be apart whilst they spend time with their other parent. But it is an important point that children have a legal right to spend time with both parents, subject to parental responsibility, so you will need to put personal feelings to one side and be able to deal successfully with your ex spouse to avoid them becoming a combative environment which causes everyone stress, including your own children.
What are contact handovers?
Contact handovers are where you are either dropping off, or collecting, the children from an ex partner. It is one of the few times your children will see the two of you, their parents, meeting and interacting face to face and you should try to ensure they go as smoothly and comfortably as possible. They are not a time to have 'words' with your ex partner, or criticise them for some assumed mis-deed, but if your divorce has so far been acrimonious they can all to easily turn into a battleground. You need to put the children front and centre of the handover and if the two of you cannot communicate amicably then you will need to find a solution that works for you. You both should be aiming for the handovers to be as smooth and calm as possible to avoid everyone dreading the next one.
Many parents think their children will not pick up on any negative vibes or bad atmosphere experienced during these visits, but children are extremely susceptible to these environments and will notice their parents behaviours and act accordingly - whatever their age. It is always to be encouraged that, as parents, you set a good example and demonstrate to your children that whilst the two of you no longer love each other, you both still love them and will continue to put them as your priority. As expert child law advice Guildford lawyers we are here to help you navigate through your post divorce situation and can advise you on the best steps to take when dealing with a hostile or inflexible ex partner.
Where should contact handovers take place?
Choosing the place where the handover is to take place is extremely important. It needs to be somewhere suitable and preferably familiar to the children. If relations between you are strained and the handover cannot take place at the child's home without it descending into a war of words, then an alternative venue will need to be sourced - a relatives house is a suitable alternative as it will be known to the child and may well have some of their own toys, games etc there already. It is also a good choice in case one or other parent is running late and the child may need to stay there for a little longer as it is an environment comfortable and known to them. Altenatively a trusted friends house could be used, or if neither of these are an option then a public place, such as a park or even an restaurant may be a suitable alternative. Wherever these handovers take place needs to work for both the parents and minimise any hint of negativity.
If the relationhip has broken down irretrievably and contact is to be avoided, or there are any child protection or safety issues, then it will be highly recommended that the contact handovers take place through a contact centre. These are safe places, run by professional agencies and will facilitate the handover on your behalf. The parents will not need to physically see each other and the handover will be completely handled by the staff at the centre. A member of staff will greet you and take the child from one parent to the other, with no need for the parents to be in the same space at any time. Depending on your personal circumstances the child will either stay at the centre for a supervised visit, where the parent is not left alone with the child, but can play, watch television, talk etc with a staff member subtly present at all times. Or they may be able to leave the facility for a set period of time before returning the child for the handover back to the other parent. Here at Gregorian Emerson Family Law Solicitors, as experienced child law advice Guildford lawyers we can help you to arrange the type of handover best suited to your family circumstances.
Things to keep in mind for contact handovers.
Always be on time for your handover - obviously there may be times when this is unavoidable, but communication is key here as lateness fom either party can easily become a trigger for an argument to start. Not only can it cause issues with the other parent not knowing if you are either coming to collect the child, or where you are with returning the child, but it can also cause unnecessary concern within your child as they are left unsure if you are actually coming to get them. Whatever the reason, if you are going to be late please ensure you keep all parties informed to avoid any unncessary stress or disruption to the child.
Keep your children informed of what is happening - especilly the first few times you are dealing with contact handovers between you. Make sure they know when they are next visiting, what times, any planned activities etc, make them feel involved, but do not promise activities that may not materialise.
Always remember that, whilst you may not be happy for your child to be spending time with your ex partner, your child will be looking forward to it. It is important you do not give off negativity towards the visits to avoid confusing your child on what to expect. They love both of you and, age dependant, will not understand why you don't want them to visit.
Try not to have 'silent' handovers, even if you cannot manage a conversation between you just a few words will go a long way with your children. You can make it something simple like when they last ate, or what homework they need to complete etc, but anything rather than just scowling at each other is preferable for their wellbeing. They will be excited about the visit, so being amicable between you both is to be encouraged.
Using a Parenting diary between you can help communication. You can use it to keep a note of all activities happening that week and who is repsonsible for dropping off or collecting the child. You can also use it to keep notes on homework, behaviour or even a list of clothing they took for the visit, basically anything that works for the two of you to aid you in co-parenting effectively and for the benefit of your children.
Always be prepared for the handover and have everything ready in good time. Unnecessary arguments can ensue from a parent who is consistently scrabbling around getting everything ready at the last minute, often whilst the collecting parent is stood around waiting to leave. A little bit of planning goes a long way in these situations.
And finally - NEVER bad mouth each other in front of the children, never ask them to pass messages on between you or spy on the other parent during their visit. Don't question them about every aspect of your ex partner when they return from their visit - they are no longer your concern! Let them enjoy their time with the other parent without risk of interrogtion from you upon their return.
Every couple will deal with contact handovers differently as every couples circumstances are different. There are no 'rules' when it comes to arranging handovers and you will gradually develop yours until you find what works best for both of you over time. Be prepared that it may take a while for you to find the right balance for you and don't stress if it doesn't materialise immediately - it will always be a work in progress and will change over time as your children get older too.
Here at Gregorian Emerson Family Law Solicitors we can help with every aspect of your child law advice Guildford queries and help you with any questions you may have.
Based in Guildford and Cobham, Surrey Central London, we can help you. If you have a child law advice dispute that needs resolving, we are here to help and look forward to your call.
Please contact us on 01483 826 470