Tonya Craft Asks For Visitation Time With Her Children

Says She Is Taking The Summer Off To Be With Them

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Tonya Craft says in a court motion that she is taking the summer off and wants to spend as much time as possible with her two children.

The children were removed from the former Chickamauga Elementary School kindergarten teacher after she was charged with 22 counts of child molestation two years ago. She was recently ruled innocent of all charges by a jury in Ringgold after a lengthy, highly-publicized trial.

The new "motion for a temporary expanded visitation plan and/or reunification plan" was filed by attorney Clancy Covert.

Hamilton County Circuit Court Judge Marie Williams is overseeing the custody case involving Ms. Craft and former husband Joal Henke, who now has the young son and daughter with him in Ooltewah.

Ms. Craft had some visitation with the son, but none with the daughter while she faced criminal charges. The daughter was one of three young children who testified against her.

It was noted that in November 2008, an agreed order was entered that allowed alternating weekend parenting with the children. It did not provide for holiday, summer or expanded visitation.

However, as a condition of the bond imposed by Catoosa County Judge Brian House, Ms. Craft was not allowed contact with the daughter.

Almost immediately after her acquittal, Craft attorneys asked that the children be returned to her. That request was opposed by Henke attorney Charles Dupree, who said the children have prospered while living with the Henkes.

The new Craft motion notes that attorney Linda Hall, the guardian ad litem looking out for the interest of the children, "has indicated that a reunification plan needs to be implemented."

The motion says Ms. Craft "is willing to work within reasonable parameters to accomplish a reunification plan that is in the children's best interests."

It says she "is presently unemployed and can spend significant time with the children until the final hearing, either day or night." She "asks for regular, frequent and extended visitation with her children throughout the summer and up to the date of the final hearing."

The motion says, "Due to the ongoing issues between the parties, defendant anticipates that a minimum set plan with escalating time over the course of the summer needs to be put into place at present."

Attorney Covert said Ms. Craft "is willing to meet frequently with her daughter and the therapist in order to accomplish the reunification plan, in addition to regular visitation with her daughter. She met with the therapist last week and was advised that the plaintiff did not bring her daughter for a visit earlier in the week and no explanation was given. As such, defendant was unable to see her daughter last week."

Ms. Craft asked for additional visitation time with her son, including makeup time for Mother's Day, overnight visitation with her son on his upcoming birthday to include the weekend following his birthday "to make up for the two
birthdays defendant has missed."

She also asked for expanded weekend visitation to go through Mondays and additional overnight visitation during the week.

Attorney Covert said it "has been harmful to the children that she has not had contact with her daughter and has only had limited contact with her son over the past two years. As a result, defendant avers that it is in the children's best interest for her to immediately have daily phone contact with both children. Due to the difficulties defendant has had reaching her son prior to her acquittal, defendant is requesting that such phone visitation be scheduled for a specific time each day where the children will be available and further asks that the plaintiff be required to permit such phone visitation."

Ms. Craft said she "has nothing but time to spend with her children this summer."

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