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If you and your ex-spouse can't be in the same space for five minutes without taking verbal swipes at each other or getting into a spat, how are you ever going to keep custody exchanges civil?

It's important to try. After all, the kids are likely to witness everything that goes on during a custody exchange. The extra conflict isn't good for them any more than it's good for you. Fortunately, there are some time-honored tricks that parents have been using for a while to keep those situations from spiraling out of control:

1. Pick a safe place for the exchange.

Meeting at a rest stop or restaurant where there are people around is a good idea -- but an even better one is meeting at a police station or sheriff's office. (Some jurisdictions even encourage it.) The surveillance cameras and extra eyes around can keep everyone on their best behavior.

2. Eliminate face-to-face contact altogether.

During the school year, you can often eliminate direct contact with your ex-spouse on exchange days. On the designated day, one of you can drop the kids off at school and the other can pick them up. You can also communicate any important information via text or email.

3. Take a neutral third party with you to the exchange.

If you can't do anything else, taking a neutral third party with you can perform the same function as making the exchange in a public place. Just pick that person carefully. A "neutral" party is anybody your ex-spouse doesn't have strong feelings about. (Taking your mother, for example, when your mother and your ex are like oil and water together is a bad idea.)

4. Wait in the car while the kids switch vehicles.

Finally, consider just staying in the car. If your children are old enough to transfer themselves from one vehicle to another, you and your ex-spouse need never actually speak.

Child custody conflicts can be hard on everyone, including the kids. Do your best to make the transition times as peaceful as possible.

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