Future of Clay County visitation center location in question - WSFA.com Montgomery Alabama news.

Future of Clay County family visitation center location in question

LIBERTY, MO (KCTV) -

Custody battles between parents can get nasty, but a facility in Clay County is trying to make things easier for everyone involved.

While the Transitions House program is running strong, county commissioners are not certain if they can keep operating the Northland facility on the budget.

Across from the family court center in Clay County, there is a tiny, two-story house in the middle of the parking lot.

Some know it as the old historic women's seminary, but it has become the Transitions House Family Visitation Center.

It is a place where non-custodial parents who are in divorce, custody battles or anger and substance abuse programs can see their children without the other parent present.

"Sometimes you can get into court and it gets continued, continued, continued," Transitions manager Mim Simpson said.

For an hour each week, parents can eat dinner and spend time with their children with a supervised monitor.

"Ours is unique because we always have a Clay County deputy here," Simpson said.

An armed deputy is a relief for some parents, considering what has happened at supervised visits across the country.

Last August, a father shot and killed his son and then himself at a supervised visit in New Hampshire. And last year, in Graham, WA, a father blew up himself and his two young sons in his home during a supervised visit.

But at the Transitions House, parents are checked and signed in. 

Before entering into the Transitions program, Mike Nichols had not seen his three sons in a year.

"It's absolutely brutal. It makes you extremely thick skinned," said Mike Nichols, who is fighting for custody. "In court, you can be innocent of everything you are accused of, but it doesn't matter. Whomever is more convincing, that is who wins."

Simpson said they make sure that the monitor doesn't know the parent they are sitting with or the children they are sitting with.

The monitors take notes on how the children and parents interact.

"You don't want to be biased on those notes," Simpson said.

And then those notes are given to family court judges.

"In this environment, we often hear a skewed version of the facts of the events," said associate circuit court judge David Chamberlain.

Chamberlain said the program is a valuable tool.

"The program is designed to be temporary, and so the monitors. They make notes, and then I receive that feedback and that lets me know, in any given case, how is it working (or) not working," Chamberlain said.

For parents, like Nichols, they feel the program tries to create a setting that is more like a home atmosphere.

But Clay County commissioners have informed family court officials that the house is not in a permanent spot.

"We're still here. We don't know for how long that is, but we go week by week," Simpson said.

Regardless of what is happening in the court room, children often just want to see their mom or dad in a different room.

"Mom and dad are duking it out, and nobody says 'what do you want?'" Simpson said.

KCTV5 has requested documents on just how much it costs to run Transitions but haven't heard back yet. Most of the funding is through donations and grants.

If you are interested in utilizing the Transitions program to see your child, you can call 816-736-8400.

Copyright 2013 KCTV (Meredith Corp.)  All rights reserved.

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