Police battle in court over who should oversee child exchange

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Police battle in court over who should oversee child exchange

When most divorced couples transfer their child from one parent to the other for visitation, the process doesn’t require law enforcement involvement. Sadly, that’s not the case for a sergeant with the Waterloo Regional Police and his ex-wife. The question before the court is which Ontario law enforcement agency should “police” the exchanges of the couple’s 10-year-old daughter.

The former spouses, who divorced in 2011, have each accused the other of assault before and after their divorce. However, the charges were withdrawn.

The involvement of officers in the exchange process seems to have begun last fall. The girl’s father asked two fellow officers, during their off-duty time, to be present at the exchange site as observers when he delivered his daughter to her mother. The mother’s attorney argued that having officers present was emotionally difficult for her child. She said, “They are known police officers and still persons of authority to her with or without the uniform.”

This June, a judge ruled that the officers’ presence was “improper and intimidating.” However, over its objections, he ordered the Cambridge detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police to “locate, apprehend and deliver the child” when she was scheduled to be transferred between her parents.

The judge ruled that it was best for the OPP to handle the exchanges because there’s an “inherent conflict” with the father’s fellow officers being involved. He wrote, “The child’s future best interests demand independent policing so as to avoid any further emotional harm.”

The OPP is appealing that decision. It argues that it’s not their officers’ role to get involved in custody exchanges, as they deal with traffic violations. The OPP says the Waterloo Regional Police, which has procedures for dealing with custody transfer issues, should oversee them in this case. They also have jurisdiction over the region where the transfers are taking place.

If you have any concerns for the safety of your child or yourself during exchanges, there are secure sites where those exchanges can be made. Some couples ask friends or family members handle them. Your lawyer can advise you about your options for handling these exchanges in order to minimize the emotional impact on your child.

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