The Good, The Bad and The Truth About Supervised Visitation
About once a week, I get a client demanding that their ex be forced to endure visitation with the children in a supervised setting. It usually takes a great deal of patience and a lengthy, but frank discussion, to get my client to understand that judges don’t just hand out supervised visitation like candy. Stated another way, supervised visitation is the exception, not the rule for custody cases and is usually only ordered by a judge under extreme and very specific circumstances. We wrote this article to help guide parents thinking about supervised visitation and to answer frequently asked questions about supervised visitation in family court cases.
What is supervised visitation?
Supervised visitation is a type of visitation that allows a non-custodial parent to maintain their constitutional rights to have contact with their children in a controlled environment. When supervised visitation is ordered the non-custodial parent can only see their child when a supervisor is present. Generally, supervised visitation is used to protect children from potentially dangerous situations while allowing parental access and providing support for the parent child relationship.
Who supervises the visits if a judge orders supervised visitation?
There are many options when a judge considers supervised visitation. The most restrictive and formal supervised visitation is visitation that occurs at the Courthouse or at Child Haven. In these circumstances, the supervisor is a County employee, usually a social worker, that is paid to observe visits between a parent and child. There is a usually an orientation for both parents to understand the Dos and Donts of court supervised visitation. Also, these types of visits usually require both parties to make payment each time a visit occurs.
If a judge is considering an alternative to formal, court supervised visitation, a judge may order a friend or family member to supervise visits. These visits can usually occur at a park, a restaurant or other community setting. The supervisor is usually someone both parents approve.
Finally, a judge might also consider community supervised visitation. This means that the parent does not need a specific supervisor to watch visitation but the visits between parent and child must occur in a public place, usually a restaurant.
When will a judge order supervised visitation?
Supervised visitation may be ordered for a number of different reasons. Child safety is the paramount reason a judge will consider supervised visitation. If a parent presents a danger to a child, for example, the parent has a known drug or alcohol problem, supervised visitation may be awarded. Another reason for a judge to consider supervised visits, is if a parent does not have suitable living arrangements for a child. For example, if a parent is homeless or resides somewhere that is not safe for the children, a judge may consider supervised visitation. The decision to award supervised visitation is based solely on the facts of each individual case and is up to the judge.
Why should a parent should think twice about supervised visitation?
Court supervised visitation sucks. It occurs at the Courthouse and is NOT fun for kids. It places your children under a microscope and is just generally uncomfortable for everyone involved. In addition, it can become very expensive if supervised visits are ordered long term. Parents requesting supervised visitation should seriously consider requesting Court supervised visits and should discuss the pros and cons of their specific case with an attorney.
Visitation supervised by a friend or family member should also be carefully considered. You should be prepared to present the friend/family member supervisor to the Court and have them fully vetted by the Judge. If your proposed supervisor has a criminal history or if there are hard feelings between the proposed supervisor and the other parent, chances are the Court will not approve them to supervise. In addition, you need to be sure your proposed supervisor is able to accommodate the visits. Judges don’t like it when a parent proposes someone to supervise and the supervisor is constantly cancelling visits.
How do I present my case to the Judge to have supervised visitation considered?
Make absolutely certain that your case is one where supervised visitation is appropriate. If you are simply demanding supervised visitation because you want the other parent to have to jump through hoops to see the children, the judge will consider you unreasonable.
Your case should have some element of child safety concerns. If you are concerned about drug use by the other parent, be prepared to explain this to the judge. If CPS is involved with your ex and your children, explain this to the judge and explain why supervised visitation is required. If the other parent does not have suitable arrangements for the children, explain why your case should rise to the level of supervised visitation.
In cases where a parent is considering making a request for supervised visitation, it is strongly recommended that you consult with an attorney. An attorney can discuss the specific facts of your case and provide guidance on how to present an argument that will assist in obtaining the best possible outcome for you and your children.