In family law cases of all kinds, one of the most common issues to come up is the exchange of the children. In St. Louis County, the court has a special program to address this issue.
In extreme situations where there has been physical violence or serious emotional abuse, threats of physical violence, there is a program run by the Court called the “Exchange Center.”
This program is extremely popular and slots are limited, so those wishing to participate must jump several hurdles: first, a motion must be filed with the court; second, the judge must approve the motion; third, the parties must be screened by Domestic Relations Services (at no cost); fourth, if DRS approves the family, they must be interviewed by Exchange Center personnel to determine scheduling options and finally they will be scheduled or placed on the waiting list.
The Exchange Center is open for children of all ages.
The Exchange Center is set up so the two parents have no contact with each other before, during, or after the exchange. In addition, the Exchange Center personnel may require a parent to undergo a breathalyzer test and if the result is over the legal limit, decline the exchange and require the impaired parent to find alternative transportation home or the police will be called.
I have not personally experienced this situation, but I believe the custody exchange would be denied as well if the parent receiving custody lacks legally required safety equipment as a proper car or booster seat.
While waiting for the Exchange Center or when that is not ordered, folks often meet at the police station. In these times, that is often not the best solution and regardless, that is not normal for any child. Often with older children (the right age depends on the particular child) “curbside” exchanges re mandated where each parent remains in the house or vehicle and the children go back and forth.
Another option is to use a person who is trusted by both parents and the children such as a relative or close family friend as a facilitator. This is rarely a long-term solution because it is a big ask, even for family.