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  1. #1
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    Default Child Visitation in Final Divorce Hearing

    My question involves a child custody case from the State of: Georgia

    I was issued a protection order against my abusive husband over two years ago. He then filed for divorce and full custody of our girls who are now 13. The divorce has drug on for over two years and still no final. After I had the protection order he violated it, was arrested and went to a jury trial. He was found guilty of a felony and sentenced to 10 years, all on probation but six months in jail.

    He was very abusive to the girls as well as myself. I am not worried about custody but am worried about visitation. He has never gotten any help for his mental problems and still denies any abuse even after his felony conviction. He is now pushing for reunification therapy to start as soon he gets out of jail. Our girls have no idea he has been in jail, they are just glad and happy to be free of the abuse and haven't really pushed for any answers as to where he is. Anytime they ask me why I'm going to court I just say that it's adult stuff and nothing for them to worry about. I don't want them to have any stress over the situation plus there is no need for them to know he is in jail.

    My question is will he be able to get reunification therapy with the girls? I am pretty sure how they would react if they had to sit in a room to try and establish a relationship with him since he has shown no remorse for his abuse. He was diagnosed with a Cluster B personality disorder by a psychologist he went to during the last year of our marriage after he had a suicide attempt, before we split up.

    I am scared of what he will do when he gets out of jail and have all the safety precautions I can. I'm just worried he will be able to get the reunification therapy and what affect it will have on our girls. The girls are doing excellent. While we lived with him they struggled in school and had to be placed into IEP. After splitting from the abuse they now make straight A's in school and are in all advanced classes. They have both went to counseling for a full year after we split up and they are thriving since breaking free from him. I don't think a judge would terminate his rights because no broken bones happened, but he has no business seeing our kids unless he becomes mentally stable. And I just don't see him ever getting help. So, my main question is, what can I expect the Judge to issue as far as any visitation or reunification during the final divorce hearing?

    Thanks for your time.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Child Visitation in Final Divorce Hearing

    I don't think a judge would terminate his rights because no broken bones happened
    That's something to discuss with your divorce attorney. If your attorney is worth a crap, and they thought, based on TOTAL circumstances, that your local judge would terminate rights, they should have addressed termination of rights within the divorce right from the start. If that didn't happen, then either (a) your attorney sucks, or (b) with full knowledge of the case, the attorney didn't feel the circumstances involving the girls wouldn't warrant termination. The courts look at his actions against YOU as completely different than his actions towards THEM, so termination would be based on something occurring - usually something that would include a criminal charge of child abuse, neglect, etc - before such an order could realistically be expected. Please..tell me you ARE working with an attorney, and that your requests within your divorce petition take into account protections for the girls, right?


    Some of the answer as to whether or not reunification may be granted - or to what extent - will depend on the nature and extent of his behavior towards the children prior to his incarceration, but it would be extremely unusual for a judge to not allow ANY visitation or attempt at reunification therapy. The court apparantly hasn't terminated his parental rights, so it's safe to assume that the court, at some point, assumes that he'll seek to regain his parental role in the children's lives.

    Our girls have no idea he has been in jail....Anytime they ask me why I'm going to court I just say that it's adult stuff and nothing for them to worry about. I don't want them to have any stress over the situation plus there is no need for them to know he is in jail.
    Sadly, I suspect your children are about to be in for a big shock. While lying to them about what's happening might keep them emotionally safe for the short term, it doesn't really do them favors in the long run when reality comes crashing in. Fortunately, the whole POINT of reunification therapy is to address things just like this - and to allow the parties a supervised setting within which to pull things out from under the rug and deal with them. Courts generally feel that any parent who is at least TRYING to be in their children's lives deserves a chance, or several. Realistically, supervised visitation is the most probable, and if that's granted, even that will eventually devolve into regular visitation unless some new issue or behavior arises to make the court continue the supervision.

    Since the girls already have a counselor they're familiar with, I would strongly suggest that you have a very frank conversation with that counselor about dad seeking reunification, and consider getting the girls BACK into therapy, perhaps along with you. The absolute last thing you want to happen, for the sake of their emotional health, is for dad to GET supervised visitation, and you have to suddenly song and dance to them about the whole history of events that has been hidden from them, while driving them to their first court-ordered meeting with dad. Not only is their world going to be rocked if that happens because of their past with HIM, it'll also shatter their trust in YOU - and that will NOT be good for them.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Child Visitation in Final Divorce Hearing

    Thanks for the quick response.

    Yes, I do have an attorney for the Divorce. In my counterclaim we asked for only supervised visitation. This was before his felony conviction. My attorney filed a motion for a total psychological evaluation. The judge granted it and the psychologist (who was picked by my ex) did the evaluation said they did not recommend even supervised visitation until he gets psychiatric help and some long term therapy for several months.

    I do understand that the girls should not be kept in the dark about everything going on. The main reason I have not been telling them is due to my ex claiming Parental Alienation. He has said all along the reason they don't want to speak to him and are afraid of him is due to my alienating them from him. So, I have bent over backwards to not say anything about him negative. This is another major problem with the divorce. He is claiming PAS and totally denies any abuse. From what I have heard in domestic violence PAS is a common counter attack.

    I think you are right that it would be a good idea to discuss it with a counselor. Unfortunately, their counselor they went to moved to another state, so I will have to find a new one. I just didn't feel it would be in their best interest to tell them the dad had to go to jail. I didn't want them to feel like there was something wrong with them because their dad had to go to jail, or be embarrassed about it. You know how a child can be at age 13 and internalize that there is something wrong with them because their mom or dad did something bad.

    I am not against the reunification therapy if it would benefit the girls. The more people that love you in the world the better. But at this time I am against it because he will not admit he has done any harm to any of us. Since he is claiming PAS and denying the things he has done, I just don't see how he can be a positive influence in their lives. And as a diagnosed Cluster B personality disordered person, from what I have read, he won't ever admit fault. It is a horrible situation and I hate it for the girls.

    I am fortunate that we have a wonderful domestic violence assistance group in my town. I still go to therapy there for myself. The girls quit after a year because their counselor moved away and she didn't recommend any further because they were doing great. It's hard to find a good counselor for teen girls, so I hate that she is gone.

    I guess my next question is how much weight will that psychological evaluation hold in making him get help before he is to gain access to our girls? And does the felony conviction hold a lot of weight in the divorce proceedings for visitation issues?

    Thanks again.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Child Visitation in Final Divorce Hearing

    Quote Quoting DLS7392
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    Thanks for the quick response.

    Yes, I do have an attorney for the Divorce. In my counterclaim we asked for only supervised visitation. This was before his felony conviction. My attorney filed a motion for a total psychological evaluation. The judge granted it and the psychologist (who was picked by my ex) did the evaluation said they did not recommend even supervised visitation until he gets psychiatric help and some long term therapy for several months.

    I do understand that the girls should not be kept in the dark about everything going on. The main reason I have not been telling them is due to my ex claiming Parental Alienation. He has said all along the reason they don't want to speak to him and are afraid of him is due to my alienating them from him. So, I have bent over backwards to not say anything about him negative. This is another major problem with the divorce. He is claiming PAS and totally denies any abuse. From what I have heard in domestic violence PAS is a common counter attack.

    I think you are right that it would be a good idea to discuss it with a counselor. Unfortunately, their counselor they went to moved to another state, so I will have to find a new one. I just didn't feel it would be in their best interest to tell them the dad had to go to jail. I didn't want them to feel like there was something wrong with them because their dad had to go to jail, or be embarrassed about it. You know how a child can be at age 13 and internalize that there is something wrong with them because their mom or dad did something bad.

    I am not against the reunification therapy if it would benefit the girls. The more people that love you in the world the better. But at this time I am against it because he will not admit he has done any harm to any of us. Since he is claiming PAS and denying the things he has done, I just don't see how he can be a positive influence in their lives. And as a diagnosed Cluster B personality disordered person, from what I have read, he won't ever admit fault. It is a horrible situation and I hate it for the girls.

    I am fortunate that we have a wonderful domestic violence assistance group in my town. I still go to therapy there for myself. The girls quit after a year because their counselor moved away and she didn't recommend any further because they were doing great. It's hard to find a good counselor for teen girls, so I hate that she is gone.

    I guess my next question is how much weight will that psychological evaluation hold in making him get help before he is to gain access to our girls? And does the felony conviction hold a lot of weight in the divorce proceedings for visitation issues?

    Thanks again.
    Psych evaluations normally hold pretty significant weight in court. The felony conviction may not hold much weight unless the girls were also included in the protection order that was violated.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Child Visitation in Final Divorce Hearing

    They were included in the protection order. At his felony sentencing they were also included to stay away from them for the ten years probation. Which is also why I was confused at him filing for reunification therapy. We have a criminal order signed by the judge over his case saying one of the rules of his probation is to have no contact with me or our 13 year old girls while he is on probation for ten years

    I just did not understand how he can petition the court for reunification when the criminal order says no contact.

    Thanks for your help

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Child Visitation in Final Divorce Hearing

    Quote Quoting DLS7392
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    They were included in the protection order. At his felony sentencing they were also included to stay away from them for the ten years probation. Which is also why I was confused at him filing for reunification therapy. We have a criminal order signed by the judge over his case saying one of the rules of his probation is to have no contact with me or our 13 year old girls while he is on probation for ten years

    I just did not understand how he can petition the court for reunification when the criminal order says no contact.

    Thanks for your help
    Ok...that makes the whole situation much more interesting. If its truly a condition of his probation for the criminal case that he can have no contact with the children for 10 years, then family court cannot override that. A civil court has no authority to override a criminal court. However, someone needs to bring it to the attention of the family court judge that he has a criminal conviction that disallows contact with the children for 10 years. I suspect that you need to hire an attorney to deal with the family court case.

  7. #7

    Default Re: Child Visitation in Final Divorce Hearing

    Agree. Dad can petition for anything he wants, but the minute he files that petition, he could be held in criminal violation of his probation. In addition to consulting a family law attorney, it's time to get on the phone with his probation officer as well.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Child Visitation in Final Divorce Hearing

    Thanks for the input. The civil judge who is over our divorce is the same judge who was over his criminal hearing (small town). So, the judge is over both cases. Can the judge override what he sentenced him in the criminal hearing? By that I mean can the judge order he's still not allowed around us for the ten years, but can be in a reunified setting or supervised setting only?

    It is really confusing to me. I just can't understand how the same judge ordered the ten year no contact as one of the terms to his probation, then turn around when he gets out and orders some form of supervision, makes no sense to me.

    Also, since there was so much abuse and criminal activity during our marriage, is it a good idea to talk with his probation officer about my worries of what he will do when he is released? Is it advisable to call his officer and discuss all the details of what has happened and how worried we are that he will hurt us again just to let the officer aware of how dangerous he is? I didn't know if that is something I should do or if it just looks like a vengeful ex wife.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Child Visitation in Final Divorce Hearing

    Quote Quoting DLS7392
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    Thanks for the input. The civil judge who is over our divorce is the same judge who was over his criminal hearing (small town). So, the judge is over both cases. Can the judge override what he sentenced him in the criminal hearing? By that I mean can the judge order he's still not allowed around us for the ten years, but can be in a reunified setting or supervised setting only?

    It is really confusing to me. I just can't understand how the same judge ordered the ten year no contact as one of the terms to his probation, then turn around when he gets out and orders some form of supervision, makes no sense to me.

    Also, since there was so much abuse and criminal activity during our marriage, is it a good idea to talk with his probation officer about my worries of what he will do when he is released? Is it advisable to call his officer and discuss all the details of what has happened and how worried we are that he will hurt us again just to let the officer aware of how dangerous he is? I didn't know if that is something I should do or if it just looks like a vengeful ex wife.
    I would still get an attorney to remind the judge about the criminal conviction and the probation requirements. It may be a small town but that doesn't automatically guarantee that the judge will remember the criminal case without a reminder. You could ASK his probation officer if filing for reunification with the girls is a violation of his probation. I wouldn't go beyond that at this point with the probation officer.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Child Visitation in Final Divorce Hearing

    Thanks again,

    I do have an attorney, the same one I have had for the past two and almost half years since he filed for divorce. My attorney is petitioning the court for the final divorce hearing. They told me my ex's attorney said he would not settle and wants a full divorce trial. My ex spent all the money from our joint bank account and cashed in his 401k, he quit paying for our house and that was foreclosed on, there is no money or property left to split, so the only thing left to fight over is the child custody of our twin girls.

    I have spent so much money on this divorce that I've had to borrow from family members and do whatever it took to pay for an attorney. Will my ex be able to continue to drag out the divorce even more to cost me more money?

    The judge has already said he isn't requiring mediation in this case because it would be useless. When we were in front of the judge the end of last year for my ex's claim of PAS, he said the case has gone on long enough and we should sit it down for a final hearing.

    It seems like everybody is dragging their feet in the civil case for the divorce. Georgia seems to be a horrible state to have divorces drag on for years. Do you have any advice how I can wrap up the divorce and be done with it? How can I get it finalized and not drag on any longer?

    Thanks

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