Child Custody Exchange
Most child custody arrangements include a custody and visitation schedule that outlines the time, place, and manner an exchange is to take place. The actual child custody exchange or "swap" occurs each time a child goes from the physical custody of one parent to the other. In the family law context, child custody exchanges fall under the umbrella of "visitation rights" based on the premise that both parents are entitled to spend time with their child(ren), regardless of certain other child custody problems, such as non-payment of child support and other matters. Because of the nature of child custody, however, child custody exchanges may become complicated.
Child custody exchanges generally occur systematically each day among thousands of families, often with little or no major issues. However, disagreements do arise -- typically on topics related to school, child rearing, and child support -- and emotions run high, especially among parents who simply can't agree or who may hold a grudge against the other. When this happens, the child custody exchange environment may become hostile, unpleasant, and even physically and emotionally damaging (for example, with pushing, hitting, or name calling in front of the kids).
In extreme cases, child custody swaps may even be dangerous and, more seriously, even deadly. Take the case of a 49 year-old Denton, Texas man who was fatally shot and killed in front of his children by the boyfriend of his ex-wife during a routine child custody exchange. Or the case of a 20 year-old Dallas man who devised a plan to have his friend shoot and injure him to win custody of his child, but instead died as a result. Or, finally, the case of a Denver man who put a knife in his daughter's backpack with the intention of making it look as if the mother did it, only to face child abuse and reckless endangerment charges.
These cases demonstrate the complex legal challenges that may arise during these high emotional exchanges. While law enforcement may be called to help prevent or stop harmful behavior, particularly where a child is involved, they are typically limited in child custody matters to simply documenting what is occurring, or what has already occurred, for later court review.
In any event, violence or disagreement among parents during a child custody exchange is not in the "best interest of the child", and should therefore be avoided. One or both parents face losing their custody rights altogether where violence or other problems exist. Parents dealing with complicated child custody issues should discuss their legal matter with an experienced child custody lawyer, so they may know how to deal with any legal implications presented by their situation.