Visitation Exchange Lawyers

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What is a “Visitation Exchange”?

In a child custody and visitation setting, a “Visitation Exchange” technically occurs whenever physical custody of the child passes from one parent to another.  For example, when one parent has custody of the child only on weekends, a visitation exchange occurs every weekend when the other parent takes care of the child for that time period.

On the other hand, “visitation exchange” usually refers to arrangements where the child is dropped off with a neutral third party (such as an agency).  The third party will then care for the child until the other parent comes to pick them up, usually about 15 minutes after the other parent has left.  This is to allow custody to be exchanged without the parents having to interact with each other, and to ensure the child’s safety. 

This type of visitation exchange arrangement may be used when the parents can’t set aside their differences, or if there is a history of family abuse (for example, when there is a restraining order involved).

What are Some Forms of Visitation Exchange Options?

The most common form of visitation exchange is the one mentioned above.  That is, the one parent will drop off the child at the third party agency, and the other parent will arrive 15 minutes later to pick the child up.  There are several designated “visitation agencies” that perform such services; many of these agencies are privately operated. 

Another form of visitation exchange is where the parents are required to meet at a public place in order to transfer custody of the child (sometimes called “public visitation exchange”).  This is to minimize the chances of a confrontation occurring between the parents. 

Other options for visitation may be available, such as supervised group visitation.  This also occurs at a visitation agency, and involves several different visitations occurring in the same facility, under the monitoring of the agency’s staff. 

How is Visitation Exchange Decided?

Visitation exchange arrangements can be decided by the parents themselves.  This can usually happen in connection with the custody and visitation hearings.  When the parents come up with a visitation schedule, they will usually include instructions as to how the visitation exchange will occur.  The schedule will then be presented to a judge, who will turn it into a formal court order.

In many cases, the parent’s aren’t able to reach an agreement, and so it may be necessary for the court to prescribe the visitation exchange for them.  Thus, the visitation exchange arrangement may be called a “court-ordered third party exchange program”, or a similar name. 

Court-ordered visitation exchanges must obeyed by both parties.  A violation of a visitation order can lead to other legal consequences such as a contempt order.  Visitation exchanges may also be referenced in state child visitation guidelines.  

Do I Need a Lawyer for Visitation Exchange Issues?

Visitation exchange arrangements may be necessary to preserve the safety and health of the child or children involved.  You may need the assistance of a family lawyer when it comes to formulating or enforcing a visitation exchange order.  Your lawyer will be able to assist you during court proceedings, and can help you if a lawsuit or other intervention becomes necessary.

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Last Modified: 04-03-2012 01:55 PM PDT

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