“Please, Please, Please...don’t use a police station for parenting exchanges.”
The parties were married in February 2015 and separated in January 2016. There was only one child of the marriage. This case involved a motion to change a consent final order which outlined parenting time and exchanges. This case involved two incredibly contentious parties and stemmed into a 22-day trial. The mother brought evidence to prove that the father was aggressive, controlling, and intimidating, among various other accusations including him assaulting her. Further, she claimed that he had substance abuse issues, alienated their child from her and could not control his temper during parenting exchanges. The father brought evidence rebutting and denying the mother’s various claims. He agreed that there was needless conflict during parenting exchanges. Although there were a variety of issues in this matter, the focus here is regarding parenting exchanges at the police station. The parties had been conducting parenting exchanges at the Hamilton Police Station lobby, in accordance with a temporary Order. This order required the party with the child to wait until they saw the other party to release the child into the other party’s care, further increasing the conflict. For example, the parties would stand on opposite sides of the station’s glass doors and have screaming matches, the parties would bang on the glass shouting for the child to be released, and the child would inevitably feel scared, confused and begin crying.
The judge noted that the parties’ evidence was heavily focused on the other parent, and less focused on the child. A matter such as this will put the best interests of the child at the forefront of the court’s reasoning for a determination. The judge noted that the parents had multiple opportunities to create an order that suited their needs through two different sets of minutes of settlement and various orders and they failed to act responsibly or in a child-focused manner. The first sentence of the Judge’s order states, “Please, Please, Please...don’t use a police station for parenting exchanges.” The Judge noted that exchanges at police stations may be a default position for the parents, but this only creates fear in the child and is not child-focused whatsoever. Further, if police station exchanges are proposed, this means the level of conflict is much too high for the parties to have face-to-face contact and should not do so. If parents have this much conflict, it's better to pay for a third party neutral than spending years paying lawyers to go to trial. The judge was compelled to build a very rigid and structured schedule for the child with week-about exchanges. The week-about exchanges would reduce the number of transitions and, hopefully, eliminate some conflict between the parties. In addition, the judge ordered that there be absolutely no circumstance where the parties were face-to-face at parenting exchanges, he even included a note that the parties could not consent to face-to-face exchanges. He ordered that the exchanges must always be conducted in a neutral setting or facility and that, under no circumstances, could a parenting exchange ever take place at or in the vicinity of a police station.
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