Oasis in the storm: Center provides neutral space for custodial exchanges

 By Jo Mathis 

Legal News
Lansing attorney Lori Herr recalls the time she represented a woman whose custody battle was so contentious, the couple had to meet in the parking lot of a local police station to pick up and drop off their kids.
Sometimes, there would be no third party—or surveillance cameras—at all, and altercations would break out.
That needn’t happen now that the Oasis Family Center is there to provide supervised family time and serve as a neutral place for the custodial exchange.
 “A lot of our cases in the courts involve domestic violence, whether that be verbal abuse, continued stalking, continued harassment,” said Herr, a family law attorney and a member of the Oasis Family Center Board of Directors. “And many cases involve a personal protection order (PPO) against one of the parents, which is particularly difficult when he or she doesn’t have someone to help with exchanges. Or a parent has been ordered to be supervised during visitations—the Oasis Family Center is a comfortable place for that to happen.”
Located in Lansing’s Cedar Point building, the center recently celebrated its first anniversary. It operates under a federal grant, and is working on receiving 501(c) status. 
After a court order or stipulation between the parties is received by the Oasis Family Center, the facility coordinator will perform individual intakes and orientation sessions with each party.  A written schedule is then agreed to and provided to each party to ensure reliability and consistency during the continued use of the program.
Oasis Center Service Coordinator Cheryl Petterson is relieved that local families who’ve experienced domestic violence now have a safe place to exchange children and have supervised visitation.
“When women leave a domestic violence situation, typically that period right after can be extremely dangerous to them,” she said. “So providing a safe place where the kids can still see their father—if that’s appropriate—is really, really important.”
The custodial parent arrives 15 minutes before the meeting, gets buzzed in and the kids get settled before the visiting parent arrives to spend time in a supervised play room.
All doors are locked, so there is no way the parents can see each other.
Petterson  said the center is dependent on Michigan State University student volunteers, and the supply drops during the summer.
“As the center is being more and more utilized—which I’m also excited about—I really need more volunteers to serve as exchange monitors and supervised visitation monitors,” she said.
The center needs donations of office supplies, toys, games, and activities for teens, such as a ping pong table.
Also welcome are referrals from attorneys, judges, Friend of Court officials, and those who work with PPOs and domestic violence situations.
For information, call 517-908-3483.

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