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Monitored Child Visitation Taking Forever

May 26, 2023

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Case Study: Monitored Child Visitation Taking Forever

We have a client who is forced to work outside the State of California for reasons he cannot change without taking a very serious financial hit. As such, living in different states obviously negatively affects Custody and Visitation issues. It should be known that there were also questions of Domestic Violence in this matter.

Our client was forced (professionally) to live and work in a small town in another state, and therefore can no longer exercise every other weekend with his children. Even so, Mom and Dad were getting along for some time and Mom allowed Dad to exercise relatively regular visitations for about two years. The relationship deteriorated until Mom filed for divorce.

Immediately after filing for divorce, Mom ran into court and claimed, “I’m afraid of dad, our kids are afraid of dad and we need a monitor for visitations.” We believe she did this purely out of retaliation. So she goes to court, says all the magic words, and because judges are always about automatically protecting the children, Mom gets an order for a monitor and the monitor starts monitoring all visits, which obviously now must ONLY take place in California where the monitor is located.

On the same court date, the Court also appointed a 730 Evaluator, which is a forensic Phycologist to look into all aspects of the parties’ parenting, relationships between all parties and the kids, living situations, career choices and distances between the parties and the kids, literally every aspect of the case and report back to the Court regarding the best interests of the children.

A monitor is ordered when the Court or one of the parents feels like the kids might be in danger from the other parent, but we still want visits to happen, they’ll have a third party monitor those visits.

Sometimes the reason is drugs are involved, maybe there’s alcohol problems, sometimes there’s violence. The monitor is to be present during the visits to make sure the kids are safe while they’re visiting with this other parent. The Monitors are usually paid per hour each visit, the amount depends upon how long the visits lasts. The order for a monitor usually lasts for 90-120 days, and typically for a maximum of six months. At any rate, that’s what happens in this case. So we have the monitor set up, and we’re scheduled to return to court in about 90 days.

After 90 days, we return to court, and the monitored visits are going great. The monitor has prepared visitation reports saying everything is going well. In fact, the reports are all glowing, everything is going well. The kids are getting along with dad, dad’s getting along with the kids. Dad’s bringing food and snacks and doing appropriate activities for the kids and their age. Everything’s good, but Mom says she still has some concerns, and because of the previous Domestic Violence concerns, the Court continues the monitor a little longer.

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So, after about six months, we’re supposed to return to court. At that point, the 730 Evaluator could not make it on the particular court date. So, to no fault of our office or the parties, the matter was going to get continued again.

So, the case gets continued for another three months. Then at the nine-month mark, the judge was not available, so they continued it again. When that 9-month hearing was approaching, we all met and conferred, and everyone agreed that no more monitor was needed, both parties, Minor’s counsel, even Mom’s attorney. All three of us are totally on board there was no longer a need for monitored visits. The 730 Evaluator is the only remaining person involved in the matter who has not checked in.

We talk to the 730 Evaluator and they say, “I’m not going to have a report available to the Court until a couple months from now.” At that point, everyone else involved in the case (other than the judge) became convinced that this doctor is only dragging out the case so that she can continue to get paid. An interesting part of this whole thing is that the judge is going to likely take the word and opinion of this doctor at face value; if the Doctor walks into court and says, “I have some other concerns, other things I need to learn, or they say they still need to have more meetings with the kids,” the judge is very likely to agree to continue the monitor even though nobody thinks they are needed any longer. This monitor will end up being in place for over 15 months due to this unethical doctor.

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I’ve never, in my history of practice in over 25 years of Family Law litigation experience, ever seen a monitor in place for 15 months. If you need a monitor for 15 months, there’s way, way, way bigger problems in the family. If you don’t know whether a kid is safe visiting with dad after two visits a month for a year, then something else is going on.

We all decided to go over the doctor’s head. We decided to petition to Court and tell the judge that the monitor is no longer necessary. At the hearing, the judge finally agreed with us but decided to keep the Doctor on to sort of “police” the entire visitation process.

In the end, if you are in a divorce matter and the issue of monitored visits or a 730 Evaluator comes up, make sure that you agree it is necessary before you agree to it.

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