The Parenting Time Exchange- when Court Order meets WWF Wrestling

The parties attended their RI Family Court hearing and a visitation schedule was established with the help from the judge. The parties agreed to joint custody and child support. Everything is now on paper in a court order signed by the judge and entered by the Clerk. This was a binding order of the Providence Family Court.

High Conflict Visitation exchanges


Visitation exchanges and violence

For good reason, Most Rhode Island Family Court Attorneys advise their clients not to get third parties involved in visitation exchanges. But now a schedule has been set and all that is necessary is to exchange the minor child at the designated time and place set forth in the court decree.

Easy enough? How could this be a problem?

Third party shenanigans

In most cases, probably over 99 percent, these visit exchanges are not a problem. In a very small percentage of cases, custodial exchanges become RI Family Court meets the World Wrestling Federation. Sometimes it is “tag team wrestling.” It is only a simple exchange of a child. Everyone knows that it is detrimental for the children to witness arguing, fighting, violence or abuse between the parents. Sadly, children can be the real victims of these feuds.

Wrestle-mania tag team

However, in high conflict divorces or child custody cases, sometimes these exchanges can be a real problem. Father has visitation every other weekend and Thursday, overnight. The Parties don’t like each other and are feuding about everything in and out of court. But now everything is ok -Everything is settled right? Right? It’s just a simple pickup and drop off -of a child!

NO! Wrong!


Despite the parties being advised by their RI divorce lawyers or Family Law Attorneys not to get third parties involved, Father makes an ill advised decision. He is concerned that mother may make a false allegation. He wrongly believes that it may be a good idea to bring his new girlfriend to the visit exchange. Mother bring the child’s grandmother to the mutually agreed upon visitation exchange as moral support. Both parties start with the intention of a civil, peaceful exchange of the minor child.

But someone says something or does something and then Family Court meets the WWF!

In this Corner we have mother of the child who decides to bring the child’s grandmother as support. The grandmother hates the child’s father with a passion.

In the other Corner, we have Father and his beautiful new girlfriend who is concerned her new boyfriend may get back with his ex-girlfriend who she detests.

The parties meet at a neutral Mcdonald’s meeting spot exactly 1/2 of the distance from father and mother’s homes. Since neither party’s attorney wanted the other to have home field advantage, the parties agreed to meet at a neutral, central location in public. Mother is waiting anxiously with the grandmother in the car. The minor child is in the car seat in the back. Father is late. Mother texts father threatening to leave and dad says he is stuck in traffic. Dad gets to the visit 24 minutes late.

Things go well enough to start. Dad walks over to the car to get the child and ask when the last time the child was fed. Grandma can’t resist and chimes back “why do you care since you don’t support your child”


Father is angry and yells back “If she wasn’t such a SL– hooking up with my friend Jeff, I would Pay.” Mother flies out of the car and starts yelling “you’re a $%^&(*()  dead beat dad loser father.” Ex-girlfriend flies out of the car in a fit of rage yelling. “I have him now and you’re a F$%& Wh—-.” 

Visitation and custody war

Dad reaches in to start to get the child. Mother starts to drive away and almost runs over the father’s foot. The child is crying and yelling “dadda dadda” The child’s toy falls into the parking lot. Father calls the police. Both sides tell different versions of the story.  Both claim that the other side incited the feud. Mother runs into Court to get a restraining order.

(This exchange is based on a compilation of many similar exchanges I have seen in 17 years as a RI Divorce Lawyer. It is not based on any particular incident or any particular case.)