Custody and visitation can be complicated issues to resolve. Most people acknowledge that it’s best for a child to have both parents involved in their life. But what happens when there’s a question about the child’s safety or well-being when they’re in the care of one parent? Supervised visitation is one possible solution.
What Is Supervised Visitation?
The purpose of supervised visitation is to allow the child and parent to bond while ensuring that no harm comes to the child in the process. These types of visitations typically take place at a facility designated by the court and are supervised by a social worker or other court-appointed professional.
However, there are other types of supervised visitation as well. In some cases, visitation can be supervised by a family member or friend who both parents agree on. In this case, the supervisor must be vetted by the court and be prepared to be available for scheduled visitations on an ongoing basis. Community supervised visitation is another possibility. This means that no specific supervisor is appointed, but the parent must spend their visitation time with the child in a public place. Which type of supervision a judge orders depends largely on the evidence provided by parents, the facts of the case, and the needs of the family.
Supervised visitation can be temporary or permanent. Sometimes supervised visitation is only needed on a transitional basis. Sometimes it can be changed to unsupervised visitation after the non-custodial parent meets certain requirements laid out by the court. In other cases, unsupervised visitation is never possible and visits between parent and child must be supervised as long as they maintain contact.
When Should I Ask for Supervised Visitation?
Although a judge can order supervised visitation on their own, usually supervision is requested by the custodial parent. Custodial parents should ask for supervised visitation when they have good reason to suspect that unsupervised visitation would be harmful to their children’s physical, mental, or emotional health. The judge will then determine whether or not to grant the request.
There are many situations in which a judge is likely to agree that a non-custodial parent should have supervised visitation. One common reason is when there’s a history of physical, mental, or sexual abuse. Not only can supervised visitation be ordered when the non-custodial parent has abused the child in the past, but it can also be ordered if the non-custodial parent has abused the custodial parent in the past, even if the child was not involved.
Another situation that calls for supervised visitation is when the non-custodial parent has an active substance abuse problem. A parent who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol may not be able to supervise a child safely or provide a safe environment, so supervised visitation can allow a parent who suffers from an addiction to visit with a child in a safe way.
A very good reason to request supervised visitation is when the non-custodial parent has threatened or attempted to kidnap the child from the custodial parent. Even if the non-custodial parent doesn’t intend to harm their child, removing a child from their primary caregiver by force is harmful. It’s also a violation of the custody agreement.
Sometimes, medical issues can necessitate supervised visitation. For example, if a parent has an uncontrolled mental illness that causes them to behave erratically, supervised visitation can be safer for the child. Another scenario is when a child has a medical condition that requires the parent to administer medicines or treatments. If the non-custodial parent has not previously been involved and doesn’t know how to administer needed medical treatments, or if they have a history of failing to give medications or treatments that the child has needed in the past, then supervised visits can be appropriate. In cases like these, the supervised visits could be needed only temporarily – a parent who simply hasn’t learned how to give a particular treatment might be ready for unsupervised visits once they’ve learned and had some experience.
Supervised visits can also be helpful when a parent has been absent from the child’s life since birth or for a long time. A child may feel uncomfortable, upset, or unsafe at being left alone with someone that they see as a stranger, even if that person is the child’s legal or biological parent. Supervised visitation can give parent and child a chance to get to know each other in an environment that feels safe and comfortable for the child, after which they may be able to transition to unsupervised visits.
How Can I Request Supervised Visitation?
You’ll need to let the court know that you want supervised visitation and explain why, as well as provide any evidence you have. For example, if you or your child have experienced abuse and reported it to the police, then police reports and documentation from the Department of Children and Families can strengthen your request.
In other cases, the court may appoint a guardian ad litem to evaluate the family. This is a person who assesses your child, your home, your ex’s home, and both parents’ interactions with the child. They may also interview your child’s teachers or childcare providers or other people who are close to the family. They’ll use that information to submit a recommendation to the court about whether supervised visitation is an appropriate choice in your situation.
It’s important to note that supervised visitation does add some additional complications to your child’s relationship with their other parent. The feeling of being watched can be unsettling for both parent and child. Visitation may not be able to occur as often as either the non-custodial parent or the child might like, because it will depend on a third party’s schedule or the schedule of a particular facility. Supervised visitation shouldn’t be taken lightly. However, if you have serious concerns for your child’s wellbeing, supervised visitation can be the best way to ensure safety without severing the bond between the non-custodial parent and child.
A legal resource group like National Family Solutions can help you with your request for supervised visitation. They can help you determine what paperwork you need to file, what documentation you need, and which agencies can help you with your request.