MY LAWYER SAYS THAT MY CASE HAS BEEN ASSIGNED TO DOMESTIC RELATIONS SERVICES FOR SCREENING FOR THE EXCHANGE CENTER – WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON?
In St. Louis County, there is a department called Domestic Relations Services, commonly referred to as “DRS.” DRS is a free service offered by the court that must be ordered by the judge in a pending case involving child custody and will be available while the case in pending and in rare instances, after the case has ended when the parties agree and the court orders that services will continue.
The primary reason that DRS becomes involved in a case is to assist the parties in negotiating a schedule for their respective parenting time with the children, formally called the “Parenting Plan.” The DRS workers are all trained mediators, which means that they “mediate” the discussion, meaning they maintain civility between the parties and make certain that all issues are discussed. Unless the mediation has been designated “confidential,” the mediator may participate in the discussions between the attorneys and the Judge so it is important that you remain calm, polite and respectful during all interactions with your DRS worker.
DRS also provides supervisory services when supervised visitation has been ordered by the judge. This supervision (whether of visitation or exchanges) is scheduled between 8:30 am and 4:30 pm. In some instances, the DRS worker may refer the family to the Exchange Center for supervision of exchanges or visits. Exchange Center staff may ask any parent to blow into a breathalyzer before any exchange or visit and if the parent blows over 0.00, the visit or exchange will not occur. The Exchange Center staff with arrange the exchange of the child is such a way that there will be no contact between the parents and will monitor and document the supervised visit. If the parent exercising the supervised visit is acting inappropriately, the visit will be terminated.
There is no charge for the Exchange Center Services, but there is limited capacity there and commonly there is a waiting list. Services are generally available for three to six months, but that may be extended by the judge.