BLOG

Supervised Visitation & Exchange Centers in Montgomery County: Supporting Safety and Stability in Relationships

February 13th, 2017

By: Spencer Cantrell, JD, Legal Access Program Director

JCADA assist clients at any point in an abusive relationship: pre-separation, through a separation or divorce, and post-separation. One of the most common issues for clients post-separation is their attempt to co-parent with an abuser. Due to the dynamics of abuse, specifically power and control, co-parenting can be nearly impossible. For example, many JCADA clients report that their ex-partners:

  • Return the child(ren) late; 
  • Insist on coming up to the front door;
  • Block their cars so they cannot leave a meeting area; or 
  • Refuse to return the child(ren) when the weather is inclement or other family matters arise. 
Parents also often report frustration that their abusive partner refuses to help with homework or sends the child(ren) home after their bedtime without having served them dinner. While we understand that different parents will have varying rules and that no two households are identical, we can also identify patterns of continuing power and control in this behavior1. Because of these dynamics, many JCADA clients living in Montgomery County would benefit immensely from a safe, supervised visitation and custody exchange center. This resource would promote the safety of both the clients and their children.

Take for instance the story of one of JCADA’s clients, Trish. Trish’s ex-husband has severe mental health issues. In addition to being physically, emotionally, and verbally abusive to Trish, her ex-husband also attempted suicide in front of their two children. Thanks to a court order, Trish was able to receive full custody of her children and her ex-husband was ordered only supervised visitation. Her husband came to the first three supervised visitations, but then failed to return because he did not have a car and transportation to the center was difficult on Sundays due to the amended bus schedules. Having satellite locations around Montgomery County would be helpful to this family, because the children still want to see their father and have some reassurances that he is okay, but this can only occur in a safe, secured environment.

Another JCADA client who would benefit from supervised visitation centers around Montgomery County is Madison. She is in the process of divorcing her husband who has been violently abusive, suffers from severe substance abuse issues, and totaled Madison’s car. Madison now relies on the bus to get their four children to and from doctor’s appointments, school, and church. Madison also wants her children to have a relationship with their father, but his substance abuse issues make it safe only in a controlled environment. Furthermore, Madison’s husband lives in a group home for recovering addicts, an environment unsafe for visitation. Having satellite locations available would be one more step towards helping Madison, her children and countless other families stabilize their lives by letting the children see their parent while feeling safe.

In the past, other JCADA clients have expressed interest in using a supervised visitation or exchange center. However, for various reasons this was not an option: the sole location was too inconvenient; their calendar was already fully booked; scheduling was not feasible due to parents working hours; one party would not agree to it; or other options were simply easier. Many of our clients have turned to a relative’s house, McDonald's parking lots, or firehouse stations. One JCADA client always goes to the same gas station, and knows where the surveillance cameras are, so that at least if something happens to her or her children, it is documented. This is a tragic way to approach facilitating a relationship between children and their parents. Additionally, fast food workers and firefighters are not typically trained in de-escalation and how to best manage any issues that might arise in an abusive relationship or when children choose not to visit with one parent.

Adding more visitation centers around Montgomery County would be incredibly helpful to so many of JCADA’s clients and to so many more. Trained staff in a secured location would help to stop the cycle of abuse, preserve children’s relationships with both parents, and create an environment where all parties feel safe and comfortable in encouraging children to have a relationship with both parents.

In the past, other JCADA clients have expressed interest in using a supervised visitation or exchange center. However, for various reasons this was not an option: the sole location was too inconvenient; their calendar was already fully booked; scheduling was not feasible due to parents working hours; one party would not agree to it; or other options were simply easier. Many of our clients have turned to a relative’s house, McDonald's parking lots, or firehouse stations. One JCADA client always goes to the same gas station, and knows where the surveillance cameras are, so that at least if something happens to her or her children, it is documented. This is a tragic way to approach facilitating a relationship between children and their parents. Additionally, fast food workers and firefighters are not typically trained in de-escalation and how to best manage any issues that might arise in an abusive relationship or when children choose not to visit with one parent.

Adding more visitation centers around Montgomery County would be incredibly helpful to so many of JCADA’s clients and to so many more. Trained staff in a secured location would help to stop the cycle of abuse, preserve children’s relationships with both parents, and create an environment where all parties feel safe and comfortable in encouraging children to have a relationship with both parents.

*Names have been changed to protect the identity of client.


Posted by JCADA | Topic: Legal Access  | Category: Legal Access

Leave a comment:

Name (required):
Email (required):
Website:
Comment:
Please Enter Code Into the Textbox Below (CODE IS CASE-SENSITIVE):