Visitation transportation responsibility should be spelled out in your child custody agreement or parenting plan. This pre-planning eliminates confusion around the issue of which parent is responsible for providing transportation to and from regular visits. In some situations, it may also be necessary to conduct visitation transfers at a neutral drop-off location. Let's explore what decisions need to be reflected in your visitation transportation plan, what circumstances might require the use of a neutral drop-off location, and how to handle transportation refusal so the issue doesn't come back to hurt you in court.
What to Include in Your Visitation Transportation Plan
You should include the following visitation transportation details in your parenting plan or child custody agreement:
- Who is responsible for transportation to and from visits
- The use of child safety restraints, including seat belts and car seats/booster seats
- Procedures to be followed if the parent providing transportation runs late (either picking up or dropping off)
- How transportation costs should be handled
- Parameters for children flying alone (if air travel is required)
Even if your lawyer does not bring these issues up, you have the right to voice any concerns to counsel (or share them during custody mediation sessions). Any decisions you reach about visitation transportation arrangements or other issues should be documented to show what you each agree to up front.
Choosing Your Visitation Drop-Off Location
Unless you have been ordered by the court to conduct visitation drop offs in a certain location, you can work with your ex to decide where the transfers should take place.
You may choose to meet at a central, public location approximately equidistant from both of your residences, or you may decide that "Parent A" will pick up the child at the start of the visit at one residence, and "Parent B" will pick up the child at the end of the visit at the other residence. In addition, you may determine that the safest location for your transfers is a neutral drop off center.
When to Use a Neutral Drop-Off Location
Visitation transportation doesn't always go smoothly. In fact, for some families, visitation drop-off is precisely the contact that is most contentious between mom and dad. If you notice that your drop off routine is becoming tenser, your ex uses the opportunity to provoke you, or you feel physically threatened, then you may need to initiate safe visitation transfer protocols. This means formally establishing — and using — a neutral drop-off location for all visitation transfers.
To find a Neutral Drop-Off Location Near You:
- Speak with your attorney or ask your local family court clerk for referrals
- Inquire at your local police station (which may already be a neutral drop-off in your community)
- Search for lists online through the Supervised Visitation Network and the Administration for Children and Families, which both maintain lists of neutral drop off centers on their websites
- Contact your state's Division of Children and Family Services for a list of neutral drop-off locations in your area
How to Handle Visitation Transportation Refusal
Many parents wonder, "What should I do if the other parent refuses to provide transportation? Does that mean I can refuse to send my child for visits without the risk of being in contempt of court-ordered visits." Generally speaking, no.
If the court has ordered regular parent-child visitation, then you should do whatever you can to make sure those visits take place—even if that means taking care of the transportation yourself. (For more on visitation refusal, read Think Twice Before You Refuse Visitation.)