Exchanging the kids with your former spouse can be rushed and awkward – even with the most cooperative parents. You are in a rush to leave, your former spouse is in a rush, and your kids are moving as fast as they can. Adding to the confusion can be the shear amount of items that need to be exchanged: back packs, sports equipment, clothes, prescriptions, and electronics. This is especially true in Sarasota divorce cases, where more and more parenting plans equally divide the children’s time between the parents.
See if this sounds familiar:
- You pull up to your former spouse’s home.
- Your kids come out to the car with backpacks, tote bags, and a small suitcases.
- You may have a brief discussion with your former spouse about upcoming events for the kids.
- Everything gets thrown in the trunk.
- You grab some dinner with the children, and go back to your house.
- Then only after you get back to your house, do you realize that a math text book has been left behind. (Or a soccer cleat, or medicine, or a stuffed animal, etc.).
What to do? There is a relatively short list of essential “must have” items that need to be exchanged. For example: t-shirts, socks, and even a tooth brush are nonessential because it is fairly easy (and cheap) to have extras at both houses. Essential items are things like: prescription medications, team jerseys and sports equipment, cell phones, and text books. These are items where it is either not possible, or practical, to have duplicates at each house.
Try this secret for improving the exchanges:
- Make a master list of the essential items that need to be exchanged. This list will change about once per quarter, as your kids activities change, and as they get older.
- Break the master list down into three or four shorter lists. Print and cut out these shorter lists so that they can fit onto a clear, self laminating, luggage tag. These type of tags come in all shapes and sizes, and can be obtained at office supply stores, and of course off Amazon.
- Attach the luggage tags (with the lists) to the appropriate back pack, bag, or suitcase. For example, the school back pack would have a list of the specific text books that need to travel with your child.
- Depending our your children’s ages, either your children or your former spouse can pack up the bags before the exchange, using the luggage tag to make sure that key items are making the trip with your kids.
- At the pick-up or drop-off, do a quick inspection to make sure each bag has the key essential must have items. (Believe me my kids can easily “lose” an item between the time they pack it up, and the time it is being loaded into the car, so this extra check is worth while). It only takes a few minutes, and it become part of the routine.
Why It Works
I think there are three reasons why this solution works. First, you and at least one other person are reviewing the check list before you drive off. Second, a list is about what is “there” which is easier to determine than what it missing (which is what you are doing when there is no list). Third, creating the list makes you really think about the truly essential items, which makes them easier to remember at the exchange. Give it a try.