The Post-Divorce-Parenting Glossary

Divorced-Parenting Term

Supervised Custody Exchange

What is a supervised custody exchange?

A supervised custody exchange or monitored exchange, is a method of transferring custodial time from one divorced or separated parent to the other in a way that prevents interaction or conflict between the parents during the transfer. 

When is a supervised custody exchange necessary?

The intent of a supervised custody exchange is to prevent conflict between parents during custody exchanges.  It is not meant to keep the children out of danger from the non-custodial parent like supervised visitation is.  Supervised custody exchanges are simply meant to prevent parent-to-parent conflict.

It should be noted that supervised custody exchanges might prevent the parents from seeing each other at all, or they may simply have a third-party available to witness the exchange.  The type of exchange depends on the situation.  It may be ordered by the court, or it may be negotiated between the parents.

How much do supervised custody exchanges cost?

Different supervised visitation or custody exchange facilities will likely offer a range of services.  While some facilities may offer a monitoring professional to travel to a desired exchange location in order to monitor the exchange, the price is usually prohibitive.  When a monitor must travel to witness a custody exchange, they are likely to bill their hourly cost for all travel time.  This is often double or triple the cost of an on-site exchange.

Typical on-site custody exchanges, which occur at a facility owned by the service providing the custody exchange range around $20 to $40 per exchange, depending on location.  They may also charge fees for late arrivals or cancellations.

Who pays the fee for a supervised custody exchange?

If a professional custody exchange service is used to monitor the custody exchanges, a fee is likely to be required before the exchange center performs the services it is being asked to do.  The person who is required to pay the custody exchange fee is either determined by negotiation between the parents or it is ordered by the family court.  The fee may be paid by one person or may be split by each parent.  It depends on how the order or negotiated agreement is structured.

Where do supervised custody exchanges occur?

If using a family-member or friend as the person monitoring a supervised custody exchange, the custody exchange itself can occur anywhere that the parents agree on.  If the parents require a professional monitor to supervise the exchange, it is likely to take place at a designated exchange center.

Exchange centers or custody visitation centers specialize in providing a location and supervision for divorced or separated parents who require monitored custody exchange or supervised visitation services. 

Are supervised custody exchanges different from supervised visitation?

Unlike a supervised custody exchange, supervised visitation monitors the entire visit that a non-custodial parent has with his or her children.  A supervised exchange is meant only to prevent high-conflict interactions between the two parents.

Supervised visitation is much more involved and intrusive.  Supervised visitation is intended to allow the non-custodial parent an opportunity to have a relationship with the children, but keep the children out of danger.  It should only be a requirement for parents who are a genuine threat of danger to their children.  Issues like drug abuse, physical abuse, and verbal abuse are possible grounds for supervised visitation.

Supervised visitation is a difficult situation for both the parent forced to do it and the children who have to experience it.  Many children grow up to remember that their visits were akin to visiting a prisoner in jail.  For this reason, it is extremely important that custodial parents not attempt to falsely require supervised visitation for situations that do not necessitate it.  While there are situations where angry custodial parents seek a court-order to require supervised visitation for the non-custodial parent, it has also led to the custodial parent losing custody of the children because of the false accusation.  Cases like these have happened in the United States and other countries, as well.  Such was the case of a Winnipeg mother who falsely acused her ex-husband of sexually abusing their children.  In this particular case, the mother permanently lost custody of all three of her children and was forced to pay approximately $10,000 in legal fees to the father.1

Such judgements are completely appropriate considering the nature of the crime.  Parents who are willing to resort to such measures to get back at their ex-spouses clearly do not have their children's best interests in mind.

Do parents require a court-order to use a supervised exchange service?

While most parents who use the services of an exchange center are court-ordered to do so, this is not a requirement.  If one parent feels like it is necessary to use these services, they may request that the custody exchanges take place at an exchange center without court intervention.  If the other parent agrees, they may simply amend the parenting plan to incorporate the change in exchange location.  If the other parent does not agree, then it may be necessary to have the court order the exchange, or to use arbitration to get the exchange location changed if a divorce decree contains an arbitration clause.

The two common issues that are likely to come out when dealing with a monitored exchange service are location and cost.

Location issues
If either parent is inconvenienced by having to drive further because of the location of the exchange center, they are likely to resist the idea.  If the parents are unable to find a suitable location that works for both parents, it may be necessary to look for alternatives.

Cost issues
Because the services of a monitored exchange do cost money, the price is a common source of disagreement between the parents.  If the parents are unwilling to compromise on how the fees to the exchange center will be paid, it may be necessary to seek other options if the parents wish to avoid litigation.


1. McIntyre, Mike. "A Child-custody Catastrophe." - Winnipeg Free Press. Winnipeg Free Press, 26 Apr. 2013. Web. 21 June 2014.

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