Friday, September 16, 2016

Help Us Help You

With school now back in session, we have been experiencing issues with clients regarding their regular visitation schedules. Some parents are unwilling to be flexible with the scheduled visitation time that is court ordered, or needs to be made up due to previously cancelled visits; both parents making excuses to cancel or not allow visitation schedules to proceed; etc. All of these could be construed as symptoms of possible problematic situations for both the Custodial parent (CP) and Non-custodial parent (NCP).

It is our job to do our best to facilitate the court ordered visits. Problematic situations can arise on occasion, but we do manage to work them out. It is not our job to put ourselves in the middle of our client’s feuds. We have to refer them back to their attorney’s to get assistance in getting them back on track.

It is our job to receive a completed intake package from each parent or party to the action. Not only is this a requirement of the court standard, but it is necessary for us to do our job. Our service coordinator will go over the intake with you either over the phone or in person, however we recommend coming into the monitoring facility to get a feel for the environment and to get a complete understanding of the service we provide.

We always encourage the custodial parent to check out the facility with their child, so they are able to feel comfortable and at ease with the rooms, and have a chance to play. We will also intake the child if they are old enough to understand. At that point in time, we also advise the child that if they at all feel uncomfortable, they can say a passphrase (that is created before the visitation schedule starts) to the monitor to notify them that they need to step away from the current situation. At that time then the monitor will inquire as to what made them uncomfortable and see how it can be improved.

We also need copies of current court orders, temporary restraining orders, or any other court documents that give us the important information that we are required to have and to pass on to each active monitor on the case. It is important that we receive all copies of past and current court orders so we can gather the background history. Details such as flight risk, domestic abuse, and relationship history is all imperative for us to understand how to handle your case, however it does not stop there. There are many times when a court order is not complete -- or rather, the court order is quite vague. For example, the Court may have ordered 4 hours of visitation time per week for the non-custodial parent. The service coordinator needs to then reach out to both parents to reach a mutual agreement on visitation times. With school starting back up, that puts limits on the days that the child is available. 

It is also important to be reminded that although we try to offer a family friendly visitation environment, it may not always be that way. Sometimes the children may not be having a good day and the NCP needs to be aware and open to that possibility. They must always allow the children to say what they need to and not over react. The monitor will find a way to re-direct the conversation if what the child is saying becomes hurtful and causes the non-custodial parent to overreact. In this type of environment, the families are in a fish bowl. Having people look into your family privacy and lifestyle can feel pretty awkward. Our monitors are not mediators; they are to remain neutral at all times, and not take sides with either parent or show any type of preferential treatment. They are present to provide a neutral environment to ensure the safety of all persons on a visitation.

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