WHAT IS SUPERVISED VISITATION AND WHEN IS IT APPROPRIATE?
When there are serious and legitimate concerns regarding a child’s safety and welfare when spending time with a non-custodial parent, supervised child visitation may be appropriate. Court ordered supervised parenting time may be requested by the custodial parent for a number of reasons – however, it is likely only going to be granted when the expressed concern in support of the request for supervised child visitation is credible. Documented issues of ongoing substance abuse, serious psychiatric or mental health issues, or physical violence, including domestic violence in the presence of the children, are often reasons a court will enter an order requiring supervised visitation. One parent’s generalized concerns about another parent’s parenting skills and ability, however, would not be a sufficient basis for a court to order supervised parenting time.
HOW DOES SUPERVISED VISITATION WORK & WHO PAYS FOR SUPERVISED VISITATION?
A typical court order for supervised parenting time will set forth a schedule and location for parenting time and designate the individual, or individuals, that may act as supervisors. With regard to who can act as a supervisor, even in situations where a family court judge agrees with the custodial parent that supervised parenting time is necessary, the court might not automatically approve who the custodial parent wants to designate as the supervisor. In most cases where supervised visitation is imposed, the court will make an inquiry of both parties on the issue and look to designate a supervisor or supervisors that the parties agree are capable of supervision. It is not uncommon for the court to appoint the parents or relatives of the non-custodial parents as approved supervisors as a way to make the supervision as comfortable and least intrusive as possible. In more serious situations, where a friend and/or family member is not available or suitable, professional supervised parenting time services might be utilized to supervise the parenting time. In those circumstances, the supervisors will be licensed counselors and therapists. Where there are costs involved, those will be paid for by the non-custodial parent.
The supervisor is required to be present during the entire parenting time. If substance abuse is an issue, the supervisor will also be responsible for making sure the non-custodial parent is sober during the parenting time. In some cases, the supervisor may be asked to report to the court regarding how the parenting time is going. The supervisor also has the duty to end the supervised visitation if at any time they feel that child is being subjected to an unhealthy or unsafe situation by the non-custodial parent. The purpose and intent of court ordered supervised parenting time, is to ensure the child’s relationship with the non-custodial parent continues – while also making sure that the child is not placed in an unsafe situation or subject to erratic, harmful behavior by the non-custodial parent.
It must be noted, however, that in most instances supervised visitation is rarely ever intended to be permanent. Most often it is put in place temporarily to allow time for the court to investigate the concern – or, where the concern is verified – for the non-custodial parent to address the issue and, hopefully, address and resolve the concern. In cases of drug or alcohol abuse, this could be a stretch of time furnishing consistent and ongoing clean drug and alcohol screenings. In other cases, it could mean completing anger management classes, counseling, or obtaining a favorable evaluation showing that there is no risk present. Generally speaking, the court will not seek to leave supervision in place indefinitely – unless it is absolutely necessary because of an extreme and significant history regarding the risks posed by the non-custodial parent.
DeTorres & DeGeorge Family Law attorneys are here to help you. Give us a call today to schedule a time to discuss your custody dispute and supervised visitation with an attorney.