For an increasing number of moms, Mother’s Day without their children are expected, and characteristic. It’s characteristic of mothers who are court ordered to have visitation that they not see their children on this day. For dads, too, there are many whose children cannot spend time with their them.
Why? Court orders.
Court orders in Family Court, especially require parents to have a shared parenting plan, a plan which delineates when each parent may spend quality time with their children. Not because of social media, and cell phone compulsions. It is because when they separate and divorce, children’s time is allocated. Like any commodity. Litigation is used to advocate for a parent’s time; litigation is used to prevent a parent’s time. Consider: Thirty percent of parents who separate are very unhappy, angry, and vindictive. They seek to punish each other, or at least to claim themselves a victim of anything that will deprive the other parent of significant quality time with their children. Such parents are considered to be in ‘high conflict’ and seek to blame, deny, and often, to run away with the children.
Litigation damages many among these families, for there remains not enough opportunity for children to spend time with their parents, particularly, when their parents need to pay for shared parenting time that must besupervised. Supervised visitation is used by the courts when the judge believes there needs to be a neutral third party to observe, and guard against emotional and physical abuse.
But supervised visitation works when the custodial parent does not interfere with the child’s scheduled visitation. As Toby Center’s Program Director, I have seen this happen over thirty percent of the time. We can’t enforce visitation for those who may even have money to pay for this service.
Who can afford these unfunded services? Well, 40 percent of those asking for these services in Central Florida cannot. In South Florida, 30 percent cannot. Supervised visitation services are little funded in Florida. Florida’s funds come from the Federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through their office of Child Support Enforcement. These monies are to be used by states for furthering supervised visitation and family mediation. These are cases found in the Family Courts.
Yet, in Florida, these monies are used solely and entirely by the Department of Children and Families through thirdparty case management companies. Though DCF client families benefit from funded services as visitation and therapy, even more significant are the needs of families whose child custody cases are heard in Family Court. In the latter case, such families did not have their children removed from their homes. Even though the reasons for family court action may be quite the same or similar to some in Dependency Court.
I have served in this field since 1999 when I began working in Washington, DC with the national Children’s Rights Council. Then, it was David L. Levy, Esq. who emerged the loudest advocate for joint custody, and established the largest network of supervised visitation locations. I was appointed by David to be the Assistant Director for Child Access. In charge of visitation curriculum and training, I joined David on numerous visits to the Office of Child Support Enforcement, meeting two Directors of CSE during the Bush Administrations.
Indeed, it was David Levy who challenged the Federal Government during the Clinton Administration to allocate money for families journeying through very costly child custody matters in Family Court. With his successful testimony on Capitol Hill (and he was a wonderful, passionate orator of my time!), David created this annual earmark so that more families would not be denied the visitation services so essential for building and strengthening parent and child relations.
Social research has shown that children best thrive when both parents are involved in their children’s lives. It is therefore incumbent upon grantors and state agencies to find the money to preserve our families post separation. If we do, then we will reduce the rate of alcohol and drug abuse, juvenile crime, teen suicide.
Mother’s Day. Father’s Day.
For the forty percent of public school children living in single parent households, nearly half of our families today, family holidays just ‘ain’t what they used to be’. But with more funds, and support, they come close.
Now, before I begin this post proper I should emphasise that nothing I am about to say is meant to be derogatory in any...