Visitation pick-up and drop-off: a contentious issue

Child custody disputes are contentious in themselves. But once those are resolved, other related issues can pop up. Who’s driving the kids for visitation is one such issue that sounds petty but can be the source of a surprising level of strife.

That’s especially true when you throw in issues such as lateness, the difficulty of getting to the location in question and conflicts between visitation schedules and children’s other activities. Sometimes, tension over this issue can land divorced spouses back in court.

That happened recently in New Jersey. When the couple in question got divorced, they lived in the same town and agreed to alternate weekends with their daughter. The father agreed to do all driving in connection with his visitation time.

The mother later moved to New York City and then back to New Jersey. At that time, the father agreed to keep providing all transportation related to his parenting time until the mother completed her move. But the agreement didn’t address what would happen then.

Three years later, with the mother back in New Jersey but not living close to the father’s house, the father went to court seeking an order that they share driving responsibilities equally. The mother opposed this, arguing that because he didn’t pay alimony and his child support obligations were “modest,” it was only fair that he do all the driving.

A family court judge agreed with the father, ruling that it was fair and equitable for them to share driving duties for parenting time equally, and ordered them to find a pick-up and drop-off spot halfway in between. An appeals court upheld the decision.

The case shows that not only can small logistical issues be controversial after a divorce, but that although you may bargain for one thing at the time of the divorce, changes in circumstances can affect whether the agreement should stand. The best way to address these issues is to be reasonable and be prepared for changes, and to talk to a family lawyer about how best to plan for them.

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