Sunday, January 22, 2017

Supervised Visitation

Are you in need of supervised visitation monitoring services? Perhaps this is your first time hearing about supervised visitation monitoring because a judge ordered you or your ex to hire a professional monitoring service. What exactly does this mean?

First and foremost, a judge normally will order professional monitoring services for the noncustodial parent for a variety of reasons, whether it is because they have demonstrated a lack of proper parenting skills, or have had allegations of abuse (physical, substance, sexual, emotional, etc). After the hearing, the judge or the clerk of the court will then hand the parties information explaining how to obtain this service and where to look. Many of the family court departments in the greater Los Angeles County area have informational brochures about the professional services we provide and how to promptly reach us.

Once a potential client reaches us and after going through the intake interview, the service coordinator will begin to set up visitation dates and times, according to your specific court order, if applicable. This can prove to be a challenge at times if there is no court order involved because our coordinator needs to find a time that is suitable for everyone, including the minor child. We have to take into consideration both parents' regular work schedule, plus miscellaneous appointments, and of course the school schedule of the minor child.

In addition, your court order should include the number of days and hours per week that the noncustodial parent can visit with the minor child AND whether or not they are allowed to be onsite or offsite. Finally, your visitation is scheduled and confirmed with both parties and the monitor. If you have a court order and this information is not included, you may need to speak with your attorney for further answers. Needless to say, this quality time offers the opportunity to develop and nurture the familial relationship between the noncustodial parent and minor child.

We do have a few guidelines that families need to follow while using our services.

If the visitation is onsite at our facility, then the noncustodial parent will arrive 15 minutes prior to the visitation commencing in the back of the parking lot; this is the same time the monitor will arrive to the back of the facility to bring the noncustodial parent up to the monitoring room. At the approximate hour, the monitor will then retrieve the minor child from the custodial parent and escort them to the monitoring room for the visitation. At the end of the visitation, the monitor will promptly escort the minor child down to the custodial parent. After the custodial parent has safely strapped the minor child into the car, they will immediately leave so the monitor can go back upstairs to wait with the noncustodial parent for an extra 15 minutes. By allotting this 15 minute grace period before and after the visitation, it ensures that there will be no contact by either party. We require that the noncustodial parent arrive 15 minutes before the visitation commences, and waits for the entire 15 minutes at the end of the visitation to ensure that neither party sees each other.

Some parents have inquired as to whether or not we allow extended family members to participate in the visit. Our guidelines dictate that if it is stated in a court order, then we follow that court order. If the parties are insistent on having certain family members attend the visit and it is not specifically stated in the court order, then they will need to follow up with their attorney and possibly handle the matter in court. In the event that there is no court order, both parties have to agree that *certain* family members are allowed to attend the visit.

We try to promote a healthy atmosphere in our visitation rooms and request that only healthy items are brought to the visitation center. Some parents are peculiar about what items are off limits and have provided specific lists as to what food is acceptable.

The idea of gift giving also has its limitations. We have to maintain our neutrality at all times, so the only times that gift giving is allowed is for special occasions (Birthdays, Christmas, and first-time visits, within reason). We do not allow gift giving for every visitation because it creates an impression on the minor child that "I want to see X because they give me gifts all the time."

To ensure a positive visitation experience, we ask that the noncustodial parent turn their cell phones off during the visitation. This is time with your child, not time to talk on the phone to friends or family members. Even though you may not have seen your child in quite some time (and perhaps your extended family hasn't either), this is not a visitation for them. This is quality time that the noncustodial parent can have with their child. The only person that should have a cell phone on them is the monitor.

We have many families that use our onsite services to spend time with their child/children. We ask that you treat our facility the way you would your own house. Clean up after yourself and make sure the room is just they way it was when you first arrived. This will make us and all the other families much happier and more relaxed (or as relaxed as can be while being under close watch).

We are here to help families build relationships. Our ultimate goal is to see families have their monitoring lifted. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us today. 

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Holiday Traditions and Tips

The holidays can be a difficult time for many individuals and families. Often times, it’s a reminder of those who have gone on to greener pastures and bluer oceans. Its in these times that reaching out to your social network, including friends and family, is paramount. Remember you are never alone in your life path and there are people out there who love you unconditionally and are cheering you to the finish line, whatever that may be for you.

There are a plethora of other ideas that can tickle anyone's fancy, depending on the mood you're in, including:

Creating a Budget Now, this sounds easier said than done for some people. In reality, you track your income, and subtract your monthly expenses, and other necessary routine transactions from your income. I may be thinking, "who wants to track their budget during the holiday season?" Believe me, I totally get it. But, you've spent how much money on gifts for family and friends, just on this holiday alone?

Play Outdoors As adults, we forget the concept of play. A lot of us spend so much time on our phones, just posting updates, reading articles, or 

Reading This creative leisurely activity can take you anywhere you want in the world, based on what you're reading. If you're alone, why not read a mystery novel, which will keep you on your toes as long as you read it. If you're a fast reader like me, being able to 'solve' these many mysteries may be appealing for you, or maybe you enjoy the psychological thriller type novels. Nonetheless, there is a myriad of genres out there just waiting to be discovered.

Greeting Cards A lot of families partake in the Holiday Christmas Card Family Photo tradition. So why not start now? I'm sure your many dogs......cats....reptiles would very much appreciate it. Not to mention, if you are of a creative mindset, I'm sure your family and friends will get a chuckle about your creative holiday family photo.

Play Games Whether with a partner or not, games can be fun! I personally love PRANKING my roommates whenever I can -- Yes, this is a solo game only that benefits the humor of the Prankster, but still....lots of fun can be had here! But on a serious note, I know many families that enjoy 'family boardgames'; however, for those of you that are on the single path and enjoying time with friends closest to you, may I recommend the following games (some of these may be of a mature-type caliber).
  • Monopoly - I grew up playing this game with my family. If you are a competitive person, along with your family, this can be a lot of fun and laughs for the whole family!
  • Cards Against Humanity - now there are many versions of this game, both naughty and nice -- I've come to learn that Google Search and Amazon is my BEST FRIEND
  • Pictionary - simple fun game where you draw and sketch a topic from a card that the other team has to guess correctly.
  • Phase 10 - If I'm not mistaken, this game consists of 10 rounds, and you have to match your hand to whatever is listed for that particular round. 
  • Magic, the Gathering - If you like card games, this is a great one to learn! In the game of Magic, you and your opponent are Planeswalkers, powerful mages each armed with a deck of Magic cards representing lands, creatures and spells. Each player summons creatures and casts spells, trying to knock the other down from 20 to 0 life and win the game.
Of course, if none of those strike your fancy, GOOGLE SEARCH will always be your friend, depending on what your search parameters are.
For you Video-Gamers:

I've heard that Twitch App is the place to be! Upon downloading the app to your phone, you can watch your favorite players play online, through your phone! (whoever thought technology would come to this!) I discovered that many of the features you have to pay for to view (in addition, you can give the holiday gift of 'subscriber donations' to your favorite players you love to watch!

You can even dive into the game world inside your phone and never be lonely again! There are endless games to discover through Google Play on your mobile device.

Maybe you're the type that has an incredible computer gaming system you built yourself. Well, in that case, you already are aware of your most favorite platform games to play on your very own computer. For you parents that have young ones at home, if they are interested in playing computer games, have them navigate to Play City where they can pick and choose from any genre of game to play/download.

Maybe you like game consoles, like Wii-U, PS4 and XBox. Here are the most popular games that you can play on those consoles:

  1. Mario 
  2. Dungeons & Dragons 
  3. Skyrim 
  4. The Witcher 
  5. Grand Theft Auto
  6. World of Warcraft
  7. Final Fantasy
  8. Pokemon

**DISCLAIMER PLEASE NOTE** I do not promote solely playing video games, as one should learn to be an active AND productive member of society. Please note, that neither are one in the same and should not conclude such inference.

**DISCLAIMER 2** The opinions in this article in no way constitute any such legal advice, and is the opinion of the author, only.

**PLEASE NOTE** I welcome any advice and recommendations on what you find is enjoyable with family and/or friends.

Email at if you want to add a game to this list or comment below

Friday, October 7, 2016

Joys Found in Sobriety

The New Joys I Find in Life Now that I’m Sober: Recovering Addicts Share Their Stories
Photo from Pixabay

If the last few months or years of your life have been consumed by alcohol or drug abuse, it may seem impossible to imagine giving it up. When so much of the happiness you had was dependent on your habit, is there really a way to lead a satisfying life once you’re sober?

According to the recovering addicts I spoke to, the answer is loud and clear: YES.

Here are the insights a few recent drug rehabilitation graduates shared with me about finding happiness after treatment.

Focusing on the present moment

You don’t have to be an addict to relate to things like dwelling over the past or worrying about the future. But Scott said that his time in rehabilitation at Addiction Campuses’ Mississippi facility taught him to focus on the time that matters most: right here and now.

“I don’t think about tomorrow — it’s of no consequence to me right now. It will be when I wake up, but not right now. And yesterday is history. I’m only focused on today and right now,” he said.

Scott explained the importance of putting things into perspective, especially when it comes to maintaining your sobriety. You may not be able to predict the future, he said, but you can control the current moment:

“I tell some newcomers to take it one hour at a time — you only have to stay clean for this hour. Then, eventually, hours will become days, days will become weeks, and weeks will become months. For me, that’s what works. That’s the program that works for me.”

Realizing there are endless things to be thankful for

For Ryan, it’s about looking at the details. He told me it’s easy to see a bad situation at its surface, but when you dig a little deeper you just might find a gift.

“I look at the little stuff — the small, little positive stuff,” he explained. “Like when my tire blew out today: it’s a blessing that it didn’t blow out before I got onto I-40 driving back to Nashville — I would have really been in trouble. When my tire blew out, I was in my parents’ neighborhood, and was able to get it fixed safely before I got out on the road.”

It’s OK to feel overwhelmed sometimes, and everyone is allowed to have bad days. What’s important is putting everything into perspective: in the end, you probably have a lot to be grateful for, and those are the things worth focusing on.

Finding happiness in helping others

“Being an outlet for people has been my greatest joy in recovery,” said Lincoln, who now commits much of his time to sponsoring others on their journey to sobriety.

There’s a real sense of liberation in taking control of your own life, Lincoln explained, and paying it forward is a rewarding opportunity.

“I love being able to reach out to someone who is struggling and being someone that people reach out to when they want a better life,” he said. “I wasn’t helpful to anyone when I was using, but now having people who rely on me and actually want to hear my opinion is amazing. It’s overwhelming.”

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.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Put On Your Happy Face

Image result for happy face

"Marriage does not guarantee you will be together forever -- It's only paper.  It takes love, respect, trust, understanding, friendship and faith in your relationship to make it last." 
Separating from a loved one can be quite painful, yet freeing for both spouses. For those couples who cannot amicably settle their conflicts, there is the added frustration of going to court, having to deal with court and legal fees, and possibly child custody. Statistically speaking, divorce occurs more often than not as a result from financial or communication issues and their reasoning for wanting a divorce is because they didn't see the demon under the mask their spouse was hiding behind.

When a family goes through a separation, the lifestyle and routine of that family is ultimately uprooted as they now have to discover a new living dynamic. The break in routine is quite often very difficult to accept. Mommy and daddy are no longer living together. The child is angry and lonely; feeling as if they were the cause of the sudden reality shift. We as humans are creatures of habit and we do what we are familiar with. However, the path to a happier you is learning to let go of the past and begin to move forward because the only thing that you can focus on is you, and the health and safety of your child(ren). We all make mistakes, and sometimes there's just no way to go back and fix them. But we can move forward, wiser and more in control of our own lives. You have to take care of yourself first before being able to completely move forward in a positive direction.
As Mary Krauel (Blogger with Divorce Magazine, and Mediator with PRM Mediation) very eloquently stated in her article Separation and Divorce Means You are No Longer a Married Couple, "There is no 'off' switch". She further writes "there has to be some kind of balance" for couples going through separation. Let me give you some advice; there actually is help all around! You just need to be willing enough to ask or look for it -- and yes, perhaps you will need to open your wallet too. We may live in the 'Land of the Free', but (reality check) nothing in this world is free. You can hire a mediator to help settle disagreements between you and your spouse. Attorney and legal fees may have to be paid if settlements are handled in court. A variety of classes can be ordered by the court for completion in order for them to evaluate who is fit to be legal and physical custodian of the child. 

Here are 7 tips to help guide you in maintaining your happy face in the midst of such uncertainty and heartbreak. 

  1. Expect that your children may feel confused, guilty, sad, and/or abandoned in response to the divorce. Acknowledge their feelings as normal and remind them that even though the family is undergoing a major change, you and ex-spouse or ex-partner will always be their parents. 
  2. Don't badmouth the other parent in front of the child. Do not use body language, facial expressions, or other subtleties to express negative thoughts and emotions about the other parent. Your child can read you!
  3. Maintain as many security anchors as possible for your child
  4. Establish a business relationship with your former spouse. The business is the co-parenting of your child.
  5.  Transfers can be painful times. Be kind and patient with each other and your children. 
  6. Never put your children in a position where they have to choose between their parents or decide where their allegiance lies.  
  7. Divorce, in itself, will not destroy your children. It is your reaction to the divorce that has the power to destroy their coping mechanisms.

Quote from WomenWorking

A Guide for Loved Ones of Sexual Assault Victims

Authored by: Steve Johnson

Victims of sexual assault have so much to process and cope with after the violence ends that they can struggle for years to heal and approach life in a confident, positive way. The trauma of sexual assault takes a great deal of time to overcome because of the mental, physical, and spiritual effects on the victim. Sadly, sexual assault is closely linked to suicide: approximately 33% of rape victims have suicidal thoughts and 13% of rape victims attempt suicide. Loved ones of sexual assault victims need to be aware of the warning signs of psychological and emotional effects and substance abuse that can lead to suicide and of the best practices for supporting victims so they can help them heal, cope, and live in healthy ways.

Psychological and Emotional Effects of Sexual Assault and Rape

Sexual violence has psychological and emotional effects on survivors. These effects often include depression, flashbacks, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

  • Depression – A mood disorder that occurs when feelings of sadness and hopelessness continue for extended periods of time, depression affects a person’s behavior and relationships with others. While it is normal for sexual assault survivors to feel sad and hopeless, it is not normal for those feelings to persist for long periods of time. Depression is a serious disorder, and if you suspect that your loved one is suffering from depression, you should encourage her to get help from a professional.

Signs and symptoms of depression include prolonged sadness and unexplained crying episodes, significant weight changes or changes in appetite, loss of energy, persistent fatigue, drastic changes in sleep patterns, loss of interest in activities, social withdrawal, feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness, and unexplained physical aches and pains. To help the sexual assault survivor, you could look into getting a service dog that is specially trained to help with anxiety and depression.

  • Flashbacks – Flashbacks occur when memories of a previous trauma feel as though they are taking place in the present. For survivors, it can feel like the sexual violence is happening again and again, and they feel as though their assailant is physically present. While flashbacks are a typical response to trauma, there are steps a survivor can take to manage them:
    • Remind the sexual assault survivor that the feeling is not real and it will pass.
    • Remind the survivor she is strong and survived the first time and will survive the flashbacks.
    • Help the survivor breathe in and out slowly and deliberately. She should concentrate on taking deep breaths.
    • Help the survivor establish where she really is by using her senses to bring her back to reality. Help her use her senses to come back to the present.
    • Move the survivor to a place that makes her feel secure and comfortable.

  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can occur in anyone as a result of a traumatic event. Survivors of sexual violence experience unusual stress, fear, anxiety, and nervousness, but when they become extreme and make it difficult to function day to day, the survivor most likely is suffering from PTSD. One study found that nearly 33% of rape victims develop PTSD at some point. Symptoms of PTSD include repeated thoughts of the assault, memories, nightmares, avoiding situations relating to the assault, negative changes in thoughts and feelings, irritability, difficulty sleeping and concentrating, and jumpiness.

Substance Abuse and Sexual Assault

Substance abuse is a concern for victims of sexual assault. Women often report using substances to control symptoms that arise as a result of the assault. In fact, sexual assault victims turn to drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism: one study found that rape victims are three to four times more likely to use marijuana, six times more likely to use cocaine, and ten times more likely to use other drugs as non-victims.

There are warning signs of drug abuse that loved ones should be aware of if they are concerned that a sexual assault victim is abusing drugs or alcohol. Be vigilant if she is irritable, has sudden mood swings, is forgetful or clumsy, skips work or other regular activities, lies or avoids eye contact, loses interest in personal appearance or activities she once loved, has a major appetite changes, has extreme or sudden change in friends, suddenly asks to borrow money, or becomes angry and abusive.

Emotional and psychological effects of sexual assault and substance abuse are manageable for a sexual assault victim, especially if she has loving and supportive family and friends. By being aware of the warning signs and knowing how to offer support to a sexual assault victim, you can help her avoid suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

Steve Johnson co-created as part of a school project. He and a fellow pre-med student enjoyed working on the site so much that they decided to keep it going. Their goal is to make one of the go-to sources for health and medical information on the web.

Image via Pixabay by Unsplash

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Practice What You Preach

"Pay It Forward." "Actions Speak Louder Than Words." We hear that phrase all the time, throughout the course of our lives, but what does it mean? It means take action and follow through on what you say. Say what you mean, and mean what you say.

I have been living on Mother Earth now for over three decades. Yes, I am still young and have a lot to learn and experience in this life. Here's what I know. The world is full of hatred and greed. Children no longer play outside with their friends. Guns are brought to school. Kids now have to practice terrorism safety in classrooms. I have said for years that there needs to be more kindness and gratitude in the world. So many people are consumed in selfish behaviors that they willingly ignore the quiet pleas of help from their community.

I was driving into work today on the infamous 405 freeway. Currently, for the next few months, the Victory Exit is closed on that freeway, and as a result, Californians can expect traffic delays. As we all know, this is right near the interchange between the 405 and 101 --
-- which is a hell-ish area for many commuters. As I was stopped waiting to exit the freeway, all of a sudden I heard screeching tires, and immediately saw a bunch of smoke. I pulled off to the side of the road immediately, and ran out of my car over towards the scene. An older lady had been hit from behind and the force of the hit pushed her into the tow truck in front of her. I saw smoke slowly billowing from the front of her car and the door frames. I rushed to the passenger door to see if the door would open. The lady was so shaken up, that she couldn't unlock the door. I ran over to the driver's door to open it and get her out of the car. As I am certified in CPR and First Aid, I immediately asked her if she was in any pain, and if she could move. She appeared to move easily, and I got her safely away from her vehicle to the side of the road and assisted her as needed. I then called 911 to get CHP on scene as fast as possible. Once CHP arrived, they advised me that I did not need to be there anymore.

If you say there needs to be more love, respect, and comfort in the world, be that few percentage of people that will reach out to help other people. We are the change for the future. It may take a long time to make a difference, but it takes one person to be that inspiration for other people. I didn't have to stop and be of assistance. I did not need to be of service to another human being. I do however have a busy life with many responsibilities placed upon my shoulders. However, it only takes a minute to decide that you want to help, and be the change that this world needs. So practice what you preach.