Guest Author - Bonnie Sayers
I have sole legal and physical custody of two boys, ages nine and ten who are both on the Autism Spectrum. The non-custodial father has a mental illness, paranoid schizophrenia. He has consistently taken the visitation issue back to the court system to get his visit time increased, as well as have them become unsupervised.
The visits were at my home for a year while my therapist was there, then the divorce became final with the ex going on his yearly drug binge with five thousand dollars he had hoarded away. I stopped him from coming to my house and then he brought police and filed several false reports stating I was not complying with the Court Order trying to get me arrested for contempt of court.
Next I located an agency that had visits within a house they owned, several family visitations took place with full use of the house and back yard. I was against the back yard for my children, but since the hour belonged to the non-custodial parent he had the right to determine where they were, but it was his responsibility. He would bring a pizza for my older son, no drink and go off to the kitchen leaving my non verbal son free reign of this house with no supervision.
At this same time my older son developed symptoms for OCD, with stuttering and eye tics. The therapist at school asked what had changed two times in the last year. Both times the visits had started up again with the father. Also the notes from this agency's monitor mentioned the stuttering became more frequent as the visits went on. He had told me at the last visit I should not bring my youngest son since he was being ignored by Father.
When they went outside the monitors watched from a window, and had to constantly inform the father that my youngest son was eating dirt, tree bark and rocks. The notes from that agency mentioned the father spending 95% of his time with one child and totally ignoring the other one, lacking supervision on that child.
I refused to bring my children back there when the agency told me they were not babysitters and the Father could still take them outside. They could not guarantee their safety and health. Father said child did not need hospitalization and took me back to Court asking for three hours a week instead of the one, wanting to continue at same location.
By the time we got to court in March of 2003 that agency had been closed down. Father mentioned several times to the Judge that I was in contempt of court. I informed the court that the father called constantly with threats and that it would be beneficial for one call a week to children. I suggested Friday afternoon since there was no homework to get finished, which would mean less stress.
I had the tape of the calls with me as well as two files pertaining to children's special needs and a log of the calls and previous visits. The Judge agreed about previous agency and the backyard, ordered the visits to take place at my house with a monitor. I had found an agency that charged $25 per hour so I said I would pay the fee.
That agency changed their mind and the next one I found charged $65 per hour, so when I did the Order and Findings that the Judge required of me, I stated due to the cost I could only pay for one hour. He signed that and one hour started in April of 2003.
Father continued to threaten me with contempt since he only got one hour, did not show up several times and caused stress and anxiety in the children.
We went back to court to learn the final decision of the Judge in August of 2003. I had received the 25 page report from the Custody Evaluator prior to the court date. He never did show up to court and it has been two glorious years with no visits taking place.
The recommendations were the last two pages of the report, which was included as part of the Court Order that is in effect:
I retain sole legal and physical custody. Monitored visits for 1.5 hours at a safe kids location with someone who knows about special needs, if that cannot be found then the one hour continues at my house.
He is to enroll in counselling for 16 or more sessions with a psychotherapist who has expertise in Autism, to facilitate positive and appropriate interaction between father and children. Mother will cooperate in bringing the children to the sessions as recommended by the therapist. The parents will arrange a mutually convenient appt time with the therapist.
Father will continue treatment with his Psychiatrist through his health plan and comply with recommendations.
Neither parent will be under the influence at any time that the minor children are under their care. Neither parent will use any form of corporal punishment with the children.
Father will have access to Nicholas by telephone on Fridays of every week between 4 and 4:30 pm. Father will have the option of spending two hours with the children every Fathers Day, under the supervision of a monitor, either in an agency setting or in mother's residence.
The phone calls come sporadically, usually around Father's Day. Here are the notes from the Custody Evaluation.
Halloween for children with autism
What happens Before the Bell Rings. Consider Classroom Modifications for the Autistic Student Some students need a Behavior Support Plan
Preparing for A Field Trip
Toys to consider for Christmas
Single parenting two autistic children
U.S. Dept of Justice
Parenting Time Schedule Form
Parenting Plan Form