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As trivial as this topic may seem, clothing as it relates to your kids in a divorce or custody scenario can be a big deal and cause a lot of conflict. I’ve witnessed people handle clothing sharing many different ways during my years of practice. While there is not necessarily one right way to handle the exchange, there is one very wrong way to handle it which is making clothing exchanges your child’s problem.
I happen to believe that if a parent is paying guideline support to the other parent (meaning, there are no deviations) that parent should supply clothing for the other parent during his or her time. I believe the purpose of child support is to provide food, clothing and shelter and the child support figure the Obligor pays represents his or her share of that cost. I also think the parent should return the clothing to the other parent within a reasonable period of time.
However, the example of one parent providing all the clothing for the other parent’s time does not always work because often time parents share equal time with the kids and do not exchange child support. So what is the best way to handle the exchange of clothing in that type of situation? I don’t necessarily think there is a one size fits all approach. One approach could be for the parents to set a clothing budget, share the cost and work together to make sure that clothing is equally divided among the houses. If there is an imbalance, which there could likely be at some point, talk to one another about dividing the clothing again. I would say this method would work smoothly for about 1 and 20 situations. It’s a little too much interaction and could cause a lot of conflict.
Another approach is for each parent to buy his/her own set of clothing, mark the clothing in some fashion, that is not obvious to the child, and return the marked clothing to the respective parent periodically (weekly, monthly, etc). Don’t do the exchange or inventory through the children. The last thing a child needs to worry about is getting yelled at by his or her parent if she forgets to bring back this or that pair of shorts. That is unfair to your child.
Along the same line as the previous example, I have seen moms and dads require their kids to take off the other parents clothing and shoes when they arrive at the house, put on the receiving parent’s clothing, require the child to put the other parent’s clothing in a bag and then change back into that clothing when the time with that parent is over. I hate thinking of how strange this must be for a kid who probably just wants to get on with his day and not worry about changing clothes. However, if this is the best way for you to reduce overall conflict for the children, this may be the best option for you.
At all times, I would suggest being kind and washing the other parent’s clothing, putting it nicely in a bag and handing it to the other parent during exchanges. Resist the urge to “screw over” the parent by sending back played in, dirt covered clothing. That type of behavior does not bode well for your karmic relationship with the world.
Not everyone can have the ideal scenario with an ex. Maybe its not even your fault. Either way, you have an obligation to handle the issue of clothing in a way that is the least disruptive to your child because at the end of the day, we are talking about clothing here. Exposing your child to conflict is far more harmful and should be your main concern at all times.
I would also recommend dealing with the issue of clothing in your divorce documents wherever possible. Having a set out plan can certainly keep you out of Court in the future.
If you have any questions about divorce or custody, please reach out to Olivia through this website.