One problem that plagues divorced couples is the age-old dispute over who is allowed to "pick up the children".
In the simplest terms, who is legally allowed to take the children and transport them from point A to point B? Can your spouse or significant other pick them up, and can your ex object to this?
This problem often manifests itself when one parent (usually the custodial parent) objects to the other parent's spouse or significant other going to pick up the children from school or for visitation time. The custodial parent may also impose restrictions on who is allowed to be around the child during the non-custodial parent's parenting time, and may justify denying parenting time based on this.
Occasionally these objections are made in good faith, but often they stem from control and jealousy issues associated with the custodial parent. (Non-custodial parents make these kinds of objections much less frequently, due in part to the fact that the court frequently discounts the objections or concerns of non-custodial parents.)
If the parenting plan does not contain language that specifies who may or may not pick up the children, then the parents may designate anyone they want as their agent to act on their behalf and pick up the children. Unless the custodial parent believes that the children are truly in imminent physical danger from the person (or people) they object to, he or she has no legal authority over who the non-custodial parent designates to pick up the children. This also extends to who is allowed to be around the child during the non-custodial parent's time. The custodial parent cannot legally place restrictions on events during the non-custodial parent's time unless there is a provision in the divorce decree that specifically addresses this issue.
Examine the parenting plan and note the language used- does the parenting plan say "Husband shall pick up...", or does it just state "The children shall be picked up..."? In the first case, technically only the husband can pick the children up, although in reality most judges will not strictly enforce an order written this way. In the latter case, anyone designated by the husband can legally pick the children up.
Should there be a dispute over who you allow to pick up your child, or if the custodial parent refuses to allow your designated agent to pick up the child, we suggest you videotape the pickup to document the interference. Often just the presence of a video camera will cause a troublesome or overly-controlling parent to moderate their behavior. (For more information on using videotape, read Guidelines On Audio and Video Taping.)
In some cases, the parenting plan may not address the issue of pickups and drop offs at all. If there is nothing in the parenting plan that specifically addresses pickups and drop offs, then there is no restriction on who may pick up or drop-off the children. Essentially, if a provision or restriction isn't spelled out in the parenting plan, it doesn't exist.
If arguments over pick ups become a major issue, you may need to return to court to modify the parenting plan. In general, it is best not to set too many restrictions on pickups. Not only do judges look down parents who seek to impose excessive control over items like this, these same restrictions may come back to greatly inconvenience you at a later date.
Legitimate Concerns If you have serious concerns about the people that may be around the child when he or she is with your ex, you must document them in such a way so as to clearly show that your concerns are legitimate, appropriate, and serious enough to warrant intervention by the court. In this kind of situation, videotape may be the best means to show the court evidence of inappropriate, negligent, or dangerous behavior that the child is being exposed to.
If restrictions on who may be with the child do exist (such as from a no-contact order or supervised visitation requirement), and these restrictions are being ignored, then still photos or videotape of the events are a must. Testimony from the camera operator should also be used to help establish the time and date, as well as the general nature of the events that were recorded. Generally, you will want to document several such instances where the restriction was ignored in order to show a pattern of consistent, on-going violations of the order or decree.