Child custody is one of the most contentious parts of a divorce or separation. Unlike fights over alimony or property, the disputes involving child custody can continue long after the divorce papers are signed. Parents are often required to interact regularly for years until the child turns 18. We previously discussed a child custody exchange that caused the child so much distress that she ended up running away from home. Child custody exchanges can be a cause for confrontation and even violence.
Violence During Child Custody Exchanges
In Richardson, Texas, a fight during a child custody exchange turned deadly. Howard Lamone Handy Jr., 21, shot and killed 22-year-old Deontay Coston. Coston accompanied his sister to an apartment complex to pick up her infant child from the child's father. There was an argument that turned into a fight, and Coston ended up dying from a gunshot wound.
In Pensacola, Florida, two men were meeting at a gas station for a child custody exchange. The men started arguing and one of the men took out a gun and shot the other. The shooting victim was taken to the hospital with a non-life threatening injury and the shooting suspect was arrested.
Child custody exchanges can bring up the stress and anger of a divorce or troubled relationship all over again. Tension between the parents can increase when the parent shows up with a new boyfriend or girlfriend or shows up late.
Safe Exchange Zones
Some communities are setting up “Safe Exchange Zones.” These are generally areas where there is 24-hour surveillance, in a location like a police department parking lot. Safe exchange zones can be used for internet exchanges, where people are buying items sold online through Craigslist or Facebook. However, these zones are also being used for child custody exchanges.
Charleston, Indiana recently set up a safe exchange zone in the parking lot of the police department, with 24-hour surveillance. The Kaua'i Police Department in Hawaii has also announced a new safe exchange zone in a designated section of the police parking lot, with 24-hour surveillance for child custody, e-commerce, and private property exchanges. Last year, a safe exchange zone was set up at the Garner Justice Center in Kansas, with similar lighting and surveillance around the clock.
It is important to understand the limitations of safe exchange zones. A safe exchange zone may be monitored by cameras but there may not be anyone there to ensure your safety if there is a fight or violence. Instead, the idea of the area being monitored and having police officials nearby can be enough to reduce the likelihood of a fight breaking out.
Others use the safe exchange zones to get confirmation that the other parent did not show up at the agreed-upon time and place, which could be in violation of the parenting order. Instead of simply one person's word against the other, the video evidence from a safe exchange zone could show one parent showing up and the other failing to appear.
Another option may include having one parent drop the child off with a county social worker before the other parent comes to pick up the child. However, these public services may only be available when there exists a protection order between the parents, generally due to a history of domestic violence.
Experienced Missouri Family Law Attorney
If you are worried about your safety or your child's safety during a child custody exchange, talk to your family lawyer about your options. Contact the Joshua Wilson Law Firm today by calling (816) 331-9968 or fill out our online form.