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New Website Offers Free Help for Non-Custodial Parents

July is National Make a Difference for a Child Month and the South Carolina Center for Fathers and Families is launching a website that could have a significant, positive impact on the lives of children across the state.

The new website, SCVisitation.com, is a free online resource designed to assist non-custodial parents with the process and procedures required to request visitation rights through the court system when they cannot afford an attorney. Representing yourself in court, or Pro Se representation is an intimidating thought for most people. Those fears, coupled with the cost of legal assistance, prevent many parents from pursuing their rights to see their children.

The new website is designed to address both of these barriers that are keeping parents and children apart.

A step-by-step video tutorial provides detailed instruction on representing yourself in court starting with an introduction to the fundamentals of visitation and ending with a guide to courtroom decorum. An interactive interview captures user responses and uses the data to populate legal forms required for submitting a request for visitation. Instructions on how to file the forms and the proper procedure for serving the defendant are provided. The site also gives guidance on courtroom procedure, what and what not to wear and other useful information for presenting a case with confidence. The website can be accessed from any computer connected to the Internet at home or in public facilities such as local libraries.

This Pro Se Visitation project is the result of a partnership effort by the South Carolina Center for Fathers and Families, South Carolina Department of Social Services, South Carolina Legal Services, South Carolina Bar Foundation, South Carolina Supreme Court and Access to Justice Commission.

No matter how desperately a non-custodial father wants to be a part of his child’s life, he is usually at the mercy of child’s mother to determine when he can see the child, if at all,” said Pat Littlejohn, executive director of South Carolina Center for Fathers and Families. “The only course of action is to get a visitation order. This requires an attorney and money which is too often not an option, especially for low-income fathers. Creating resources to overcome these obstacles is crucial to helping dads stay connected and to lessening the negative outcomes for children who grow up without a father present.”

In South Carolina, 43% of children live in single-parent families (Source: KidsCount 2015). Many children raised by a single parent thrive, but research repeatedly shows the negative outcomes for children raised in single parent households.

A single-parent household is often supported by a single-parent income, which can affect financial and educational advantages for children. In South Carolina, 80% of single-parent households are run by mothers (Source: U.S. Census Bureau). Father absence has been proven to negatively affect academic, social and emotional well-being in children. These children are more likely to drop out of school, use drugs and alcohol and engage in criminal activity. Emotional problems can stem from feelings of loneliness, abandonment or guilt from assuming responsibility in some way for parents not being together.

Conversely, many of the detrimental effects for children with parents living apart can be avoided by establishing a consistent schedule for visitation. Ongoing involvement and support from both parents reinforces a child’s sense of family, lessens anxiety, and helps build a healthy parent-child relationship that supports their physical and emotional needs.

The content found at SCVisitation.com will be a vital link for parents to reconnect with their children and a catalyst for strengthening family relationships.

“For non-custodial parents, not being able to see their children is one of their biggest concerns. They do not understand the legal process and don’t know where to begin,” said Gale DuBose, legal coordinator for South Carolina Center for Fathers and Families. “This new website will help them know what to expect and give them the tools they need to represent themselves well in court.”

About the South Carolina Center for Fathers and Families
The South Carolina Center for Fathers and Families is a ministry of the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine based in Richfield, Ohio. Its mission is based on the conviction that children thrive when an engaged, responsible father is active in their lives. In South Carolina, many children live in a father-absent home, and the consequences are dire. To address this problem, The Center supports six fatherhood programs in 14 communities across the state while promoting father-friendly policies and practices and helping to erase society’s negative stereotypes of unwed, low-income dads.
Learn more at www.scfathersandfamilies.com.

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