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Policies Concerning Divorce Separation Domestic Violence

  • 1.  Policies Concerning Divorce Separation Domestic Violence

    Posted 01-30-2020 11:24 AM

    Does anyone have a policy that addresses child custody arrangements during separation, divorce, and domestic violence incidents?

     

    We have had several contentious divorces with parents who became untrusting of the spouse they are divorcing. We have also had one parent threaten the other with violence or taking the child away. Often the parents are asking us not to allow children to be picked up by the other parents that is a biological parent. We have said we must have the custody arrangements in writing from the courts with a judges signature. We do not like to be put in the middle of people's problematic separations asking us not to allow the child to go with the other parent.  We are not comfortable being asked to police the other parent. We now say it is best to keep your child at home if there is a threat of physical violence or kidnapping against the parent or the child or both. We feel that we cannot deny the parents access to the child unless it is stated in court documents with the judges signature.  Do any of you already have a policy that addresses this issue.

     

    Christine Webtster

     



  • 2.  RE: Policies Concerning Divorce Separation Domestic Violence

    Posted 01-31-2020 08:48 AM
    Christine, I've responded privately. Please let me know if you don't see my reply.

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    Shari Doherty
    Program Director
    Child Find of America, Inc.
    New Paltz NY
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  • 3.  RE: Policies Concerning Divorce Separation Domestic Violence

    Posted 01-31-2020 02:31 PM
    Aloha Christine,
    Sadly, this topic affects so many families in this day and age.  We, like you, always say that without court documents we cannot stop a parent who previously was allowed to pick up his or her child from continuing to do so.  (However, if a single mom or dad fills out all of the registration papers without the other parent being listed as an authorized person, then we are able to deny that other parent.)  Your advising the parent to keep the child home if he or she is in danger is a good idea.  I always recommend that they get to the courts as soon as possible to obtain a restraining order or order of protection if the other parent poses a risk.  I think the biggest fear is that the estranged parent will come to school and become violent.  We always have to consider the safety of all the students and staff.
    This is how our policy reads in our Parent Handbook:
    "...will not restrict parental custody or visitation rights to the child without a certified court order detailing the limitations.  In the case of a Temporary Restraining Order, custody can be withheld only for the duration and per specifications of the order.  A copy of these documents needs to be in the childʻs file and staff will follow instructions according to the documents on file."
    We do have one other advantage here.  We have a security door.  If needed, we can change the familyʻs code!


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    Catherine Awong
    Director
    Mililani Presbyterian Preschool
    Mililani, HI, USA
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  • 4.  RE: Policies Concerning Divorce Separation Domestic Violence

    Posted 01-31-2020 03:38 PM
    Although it would appear to be a positive step toward assuring safety, the reality is that advising a parent to obtain a restraining order may increase risks to the parent and/or child.

    As each situation is unique, it's vital to have staff trained on how to address the presence or suspicion of domestic violence.

    Disallowing contact with a parent is very different from disallowing contact with a child, and there's little to no enforceability should an order not specify that a parent. In addition, there are matters where jurisdiction is being challenged, where the court order does not reflect the true risk, where a parent has obtained a temporary (possibly ex parte) custody order, where the a parent seeking to pick up the child may in fact be the protective, left-behind parent. There may be an open child welfare case, or there may be a lack of court orders due to challenges with service of process.

    Staff can learn how to read an order, assess the true risks and understand the safe options. Please don't hesitate to call our agency with questions or to provide Child Find's 800 number to parents directly (1-800-426-5678). We're free and confidential, and find that prevention and good protocols, along with staff development on these matters, is very helpful.

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    Shari Doherty
    Program Director
    Child Find of America, Inc.
    New Paltz NY
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  • 5.  RE: Policies Concerning Divorce Separation Domestic Violence

    Posted 01-31-2020 03:24 PM
    Christine and Catherine: It seems like you're doing what you need to in order to stay within the law.  I would add that in any custody arrangement where there is a parent or guardian who isn't legally allowed to pick up a child the staff have a photo of that person, if possible, in case they show up.
    Also--whether a parent is a biological parent or not is not in play here.  It is the legal standing of the parent.

    It's such an unfortunate reality.

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    Aren Stone
    Child Development Specialist
    The Early Years Project
    Cambridge, MA
    she/her
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  • 6.  RE: Policies Concerning Divorce Separation Domestic Violence

    Posted 01-31-2020 03:25 PM
    I offer parents information on Safeplace, which includes a shelter as well as a walk-in legal clinic. I tell the parent that if the other person is listed as a parent, absent a protection order or a parenting plan, I must release the child. If the "other person" is not listed as a parent on the enrollment paperwork but brings in a birth certificate indicating they are a parent of the child, I must release the child. I emphasize that a protection order (and down the road a parenting plan) is essential.
    Once we had a family with both an order of protection AND a parenting plan allowing access at specific times. I was able to set that parent's electronic key to only work during the times that they had legal access to the child.
    You didn't ask about this part, but a peripheral issue can be social workers, casas, and police officers coming to interview a child while the child is in our care. This is what my parent handbook says about it:

    If Someone Such as a Police Officer or CPS Worker Comes to Talk With a Child

    It is rare, but possible that someone representing an outside agency will come to the center to speak with a specific child without first obtaining parent permission. This will most likely be a social worker from CPS or a police officer. If the person coming has the jurisdiction to see the child, and their visit is related to the safety and well-being of the child or another person – say, a social worker following up on a report of suspected abuse, or a police officer investigating a domestic violence complaint or conducting a well-child check – we will allow the person to see and speak with the child. We will make every effort to stay with the child through the conversation if we are allowed to do so. If a person such as a police officer comes to talk with the child, and it has to do with a matter not directly related to an investigation or the child's wellbeing – say, as a witness – we will make a sincere, legal effort to not allow them to see or talk with the child until we have contacted campus authorities, contacted a parent or guardian, and obtained their permission. If you have any questions or concerns about any of the scenarios listed above or the center's policies in this regard, please do not hesitate to contact the director.



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    Casey Lalonde
    Director
    The Evergreen State College
    Olympia WA
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  • 7.  RE: Policies Concerning Divorce Separation Domestic Violence

    Posted 01-31-2020 05:23 PM
    Christine, thank you for beginning this dialogue.  In a recent staff meeting, this topic has come up.   I am looking forward to what others can share.

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    Shantel Ingram-Gholston
    Director
    Joyful Blessings
    Detroit MI
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