Posted on April 6, 2022 by VIEWPOINT

By Susan Speropulos, LCSW and member of the Supervised Visitation Network, a membership organization of professionals who provide supervised visitation, custody exchange and access services to families.

Susan Speropulos, LCSW and the Supervised Visitation Network are concerned about private custody exchanges in public places as well as the use of “Safe Exchange Zones” at Law Police Department parking lots for custody exchanges.

The original intent of the “Safe Exchange Zones” was to provide a safe place for online transactions like Craigslist, but increasingly they are being suggested as custody exchange locations as well. While this may seem like a good idea, if you are concerned about your safety when exchanging your children with another parent, this does NOT offer sufficient security measures to minimize or prevent physical or verbal assaults common in high conflict divorces.

In fact, there have been violent, and even fatal, incidents that have occurred during custody exchanges in front of Police Stations.

This past week in Santa Rosa County, a private exchange of custody had devastating consequences. On January 6 a custody exchange in the North Versailles, Pennsylvania police parking lot ended in gunfire Wednesday, leaving a 6-year-old girl and an adult wounded. In January of 2021, another man was stabbed in front of the Richmond Police department in California during a custody exchange. In Hamilton, Alabama Christmas Eve in 2018 ended in tragedy when two children witnessed the fatal shooting of their father. This occurred in the parking lot of the local Police Department.

Violence during the custody exchange of children is an all-too-common occurrence in the United States.

Susan Speropulos, LCSW and other members of the Supervised Visitation Network provide safe, supervised exchanges of children in custody cases, that minimize the chances of violence by keeping parties separate at all times, enforcing staggered arrival times to prevent stalking and other altercations, conducting thorough intakes of all parties to understand the issues present with each family, and other measures that have proven to be effective.

An unmanned area with security cameras only helps Law Enforcement capture perpetrators after tragedies have occurred and does nothing to prevent children from witnessing high charged emotional conflicts that commonly occur during exchanges. SVN and Susan Speropulos, LCSW understand the unique emotional and physical safety risks that require careful preparation and training of those providing Supervised Exchanges.

While Florida does not have any statutes or legislation governing how supervised visitation or exchange services are provided and there is no certification for SV providers, Susan Speropulos, LCSW voluntarily follows the SVN published minimum standards that address all aspects of the provision of services, including a section on providing safety and security for all participants. These standards are posted at www.svnworldwide.org. For more information Speropulos call 850-503-0002.