John Hollenhorst ReportingThe tragic circumstances of yesterday's shooting when a man allegedly shot his ex-wife in front of their two children, are shocking, but not uncommon. Parents who ought to stay apart often get together to exchange children. There's a new facility being created to solve that exact problem.
Imagine Janeil Drommond's dilemma. She fears her ex-husband and gets a protection order to keep him away. But he has a legal right to see their children. So she takes them to his home, and pays for it with her life. A new building with two front doors may provide a way to avoid such dilemmas.
Kathy Stanley, All-R-Kids: "This door will be a separate entrance for the non-custodial parent."
Kathy Stanley is hoping to open this building to parents next month, but one parent at a time. It's being remodeled to keep divorced parents apart when they exchange children.
Kathy Stanley: "They don't have any contact with each other. The kids are passed off in a neutral territory."
The non-custodial parent, usually the dad, has to arrive 15 minutes early. 15 minutes later the other parent arrive. A locked steel interior door is being built. It will keep Dad separate from Mom and the kids until she drives away.
Kathey Stanley: "So that neither party has any access to each other. You know, kids can ignite a lot of emotions. And we're finding out that the last couple of homicides have been domestic violence related as kids are being exchanged. So this is a long-felt need in the community."
At least two commercial agencies provide similar services, but parents have to pay. The new All-R-Kids agency is Utah's first non-profit visitation exchange, thanks to federal grant money.
Kathy Stanley: "We can serve some of the low-income families that didn't have that option to go to for-profits."
But even with separate entrances, there's no foolproof way to keep the parents apart. Which is why the people who work here will have to be ready for anything.
Kathy Stanley: "We all will have a little button that we can push that has access to the police department if we have any problems whatsoever."
It's heart-breakingly common for divorced parents to explode at each other in front of their children. A veteran prosecutor told us he's seen hundreds of assault cases and other crimes stemming from these routine handoffs of children. The two-door approach is a national trend. The backers of this building hope it will become a statewide model.