Supervised Custody Exchanges

What are supervised custody exchanges?

A custody exchange is when one parent hands the child off to the other. If parents are unlikely to do this calmly and smoothly, they may need supervised exchanges (also called monitored or safe exchanges).

In a supervised exchange, a neutral third party is present to shepherd the handoff. The parents might not even see each other.

Supervised exchanges protect parents from each other, in way of preventing interaction or conflict between the parents during the transfer, and prevent the child from witnessing conflict.

The end goal is to help parents co-parent effectively and build secure parent-child relationships over time without compromising the child's sense of personal and emotional safety.

At Psych Connect, supevised custody exchanges are done by our Psychologists who also are trained in supporting parenting skills development, and in the case of divorce co-parenting. During each exchange, the psychologist will observe patterns of behavior and make ongoing recommendations to each parent on how to better support their child as well as regulate their own emotions and behavior in effort to improve the outcome of each exchange. Where necessary, the psychologist will also make recommendation on how to effective communicate and co-parent your child.

How supervised exchanges work

Supervised exchanges are almost always ordered by a court, though parents can agree to use them without going to court.

When a court orders the exchanges, it stipulates who can do the supervising. It may require the family to hire a professional. The court can also specify where exchanges must occur. If a friend or relative is supervising, their home or a public place — like a school or library — may work. If the family hires a professional, transfers usually take place at an exchange center. (Some professionals travel to off-site exchanges, but they tend to charge much more).

Exchange centers can be run by governments, organizations or private companies. They have trained employees available to monitor exchanges, often during limited windows a few days a week. These spaces focus on safety and making children comfortable.

In some cases, supervised exchanges prevent parents from seeing each other at all. The parents might arrive at different times or use separate entrances, leaving the child with the supervisor for a few minutes between dropoff and pickup.

When supervised exchanges are necessary

Emotional or violent custody exchanges can have lasting effects on the parents and child involved. Supervision seeks to eliminate this turmoil from the transfer process.

Families may need supervised exchanges if they've dealt with:

  • Intimate partner violence (domestic abuse)
  • Severe feuding over custody or divorce
  • Parental alienation
  • Repeat issues with exchanges, such as late arrivals
  • Families with sole or joint custody arrangements can use supervised exchanges.

Ideally, supervision is only necessary in the short-term, as parents learn to interact with each other respectfully.