It is almost always in the best interest of a child to have a relationship with both parents. This can be true even when there is an extenuating circumstance that might make it potentially unsafe for the child to be left alone with one of the parents. In these instances, rather than closing the door on the chance of having visitation altogether, sometimes supervised visitation is an option. A judge will decide when this is the case. Supervised visitation is not always permanent; sometimes it is a temporary order to be followed while the court sorts out the best interest of the child. Read on to find out when supervised visitation might be necessary, what you can do to request supervised visitation with your child’s other parent, and what you can do if you are the one being told that your visitation with your child must be supervised.
When Is Supervised Visitation Necessary?
Anytime a judge thinks that a parent might not be able to provide safe supervision for their child, supervised visitation might be ordered. The main priority in any child custody case is meeting the needs of the child. While in most cases, it is beneficial for a child to spend time with their non-custodial parent, the physical and emotional safety of the child must always be considered. So in certain cases, in order to ensure that the child is safe, visitation might need to be supervised.
There are several types of situations that might warrant supervised visitation. They include (but are not limited to)
- A history of child abuse. In some cases of child abuse, the parent will not be able to have contact with the child at all. In other cases, however, supervised visitation might be an option.
- A history of domestic violence. If one parent has physically abused the other parent or someone else in the household, they might be ordered to have only supervised visits with the child. This is the case even if the parent never abused the child at all.
- A substance abuse issue. A parent who is currently struggling with an addiction to any type of substance (generally drugs or alcohol) is not usually able to provide a safe place for their child and will often be offered only supervised visits.
- A history of neglect or abandonment. If a parent has neglected their child or who has abandoned him or her, supervised visits are often advised to be sure the child is both physically and emotionally safe.
- Severe mental illness or mental disability. If a parent is not mentally stable, they might require supervised visits to be sure that the child is safe.
- The threat of child abduction. A parent who has attempted to or threatened to abduct the child or keep them from their other parent might find that they are no longer allowed to have unsupervised visitation.
How Does Supervised Visitation Work?
Supervised visits are overseen by a third party. Many times, a judge will require that the parent and child visit at a facility designed for that purpose. There are often rooms with toys and furniture that parents and their children can use to visit. A social worker or another monitor will also be in the room for the duration of the visit.
In other cases, a social worker or monitor will take the child to the non-custodial parent’s home and will supervise the visit there. And other times, a third party agreed upon by both parents can be the monitor. For example, if a father has supervised visitation, it might be acceptable for the visits to take place at the home of the paternal grandmother as long as the grandmother is present.
What Can I Do If I Don’t Think My Child Is Safe?
If you are afraid that your child is unsafe while in the care of his or her other parent, it is important to contact the court and let them know. A guardian ad litem (GAL) might be assigned to your case. This is an individual who will be assessing both your interactions and your ex’s interactions with the child. He or she might interview others who know one or both of you, as well.
In an emergency situation, such as if your child’s other parent has abused your child, you should call the police to file a report. They will contact the Department of Children and Families (or the equivalent agency in your state). You can also contact the agency yourself. Once this is done, both parents will be investigated and the agency can go back to the court to have the custody agreement modified if necessary.
A lawyer or a legal resource group like National Family Solutions can help you determine what to do and what agencies you need to help you keep your child safe.
What Can I Do If My Visits Are Supervised?
If you have been assigned only supervised visits with your child, attend your visitation as ordered. Show up each time, barring illness or extenuating circumstances. The most important thing is that you continue to create a bond with your child, and having supervised visits will allow that to happen.
Sometimes, supervised visits will be permanent. In this case, look forward to your visits and be creative when it comes to making plans with your child. If allowed, you can ask the social worker to supervise your visits while you take your child to get ice cream or even to go somewhere like a zoo. If that is not allowed or you are not able to do that, play new games and think of fun and inexpensive crafts and other activities the two of you can enjoy together.
In other cases, you might be able to one day have unsupervised visits. For this to happen, you will need to follow a plan given to you by a judge. You might need to show that you have not used substances in the last 60 days, for example, or you might need to find a new apartment in a safer area. If you have abused your child, you might need to complete an anger management program. Do whatever you need to in order to gain unsupervised visits, if possible.
If you need help, contact National Family Resources to see if we are able to assist you.