Supervised visitation permits contact between a non-custodial parent and his or her child/ren in the presence of a third party who observes the visit and ensures the child’s safety. In family court cases, particularly those involving domestic violence, courts prefer supervised visitation by a neutral, professional third party to visits voluntarily supervised by friends and family because the latter can be dangerous to both the child and the monitor.
Supervised visitation works in situations where the non-custodial parent is trying to improve his/her parenting skills, struggles with a drug or alcohol abuse problem, becomes abusive or has had trouble controlling anger, has been absent from the child for a long period of time or has never spent time with the child, or in cases where the parent have been involved in inappropriate sexual behavior with the child.
Courts order supervised visitation to ensure children’s safety when divorced or separating parents are in high conflict because despite parental friction, children do best when they have reliable, ongoing relationships with both parents, but with their emotional and physical safety protected.
Supervised visitation can happen in the presence of a neutral third party, for example, friends of the family, a grandparent or other family member, neighbors, child care provider and in the presence of the custodial parent, which works a child is very young. Parents who choose to provide supervision in this manner must work extremely hard to ensure that their child is not exposed to conflict. Supervised visitation can happen at a neutral location where the visit is monitored by professionals and with a mental health professional trained in post-divorce issues.
The professional enforces effective safety measures. In most communities, social service agencies, victim service and child welfare organizations both private and governmental, and private individuals provide these services, which range from one-on-one supervision with a monitor continuously near enough to hear and see the parent/child interaction, to visits in large rooms supervised by several monitors.
The visit may take place at the parent’s home or in a designated visitation facility, such as a child care center. Supervised visitation ensures that parents have an opportunity to maintain contact with children in a structured environment that is both safe and comfortable for the child.
In supervised visitation, the visiting parent reports to the designated visitation center to visit with the child or the judge arranges for the child to be delivered to the parent’s home. In both routines, the judge specifies the supervisor. Many times, a counselor or social worker supervises contact and ensures that the parent visits with the child in a controlled setting.
The court may order supervised visitation temporarily or indefinitely when there are allegations of abuse or domestic violence.
Once a judge decides custody and visitation and issues and order, it remains in place until a parent demonstrates that there has been a change in circumstances. The parent who wishes to change a visitation order must return to court and request that the agreement be modified to reflect a change in circumstances This can be a parent’s decision to move, a parent’s successful completion of rehabilitation or counseling, or other changes that impact a parent’s suitability.
Supervised visitation protects children, while allowing parents to maintain contact with them. Parents whose visitation is supervised should strive to demonstrate their fitness to a judge. In the case of allegations of parental misbehavior, the accused should cooperate with any investigation ordered by the court.
Guidelines for the provision of supervised visitation services vary from state to state, including the guidelines for the training of the professionals. High quality initial training and continuing education are important for the professional and the families, courts and larger communities served.