County Prepares to Open Supervised Visitation and Children Exchange Center
Ex-partners with protective orders can safely hand over or visit their children at facility
Laurie Duker, far right, the founder of Court Watch Montgomery, testified in April for additional funds for a safe visitation center in Montgomery County as supporters hold pictures of domestic violence victims.
Montgomery County is planning to open a new supervised visitation and exchange center in Rockville in November.
The center will be a place for people with protective orders against their former spouses, such as due to past domestic violence incidents, to safely visit or turn over their children.
The County Council funded about $380,000 in the fiscal 2018 budget to establish the center.
The facility will be open 28 hours per week. It will have two security guards and staff members who will help make sure exchanges go smoothly.
Court Watch Montgomery, an advocacy group that supports victims of domestic violence and monitors judges’ rulings in domestic violence cases, advocated over the past year for the county to fund the center.
Laurie Duker, the group’s founder, said the facility will address a gap in the public safety net. She said last week that court-ordered exchanges of children often force parents to contact each other, even if there is a protective order protecting one from the other. Having the safe exchange will prevent the mother and father from seeing each other.
“We have to promise survivors no contact,” Duker said. “Judges for so long have been saying no contact, but then requiring contact every other week [to exchange children]. That’s really dangerous.”
At the visitation center, a father will come in one door and a mother will enter through a different door, and the two will not come into contact, according to county officials. The building will be outfitted with security measures such as surveillance cameras.
In addition to exchanges, supervised visits for parents who lack off-site custody will take place at the center.
The Rockville location is off Veirs Mill Road. Courts will share the exact address with people directed to use it, according to the county’s health and human services director, Uma Ahluwalia.
Advocates and county officials hope the center will prevent violent incidents during children exchanges between former partners.
Those incidents can occasionally be deadly. In 2007, for example, Gail Pumphrey and her three children, David, 12, Meagan, 10, and Brandon, 7, were shot and killed by Pumphrey’s ex-husband, David Brockdorff, when Puhmphrey was dropping the children off to visit him at Unity Neighborhood Park in Damascus on Thanksgiving. Brockdorff also killed himself.