31 Jul Supervised Child Visitation: When is it Appropriate?
In separation and divorce cases involving children, one of the first topics of question is how the child visitation will work. There are many different situations in which supervised visitation is warranted or required, and they all have to do with the child’s safety. This is particularly prevalent in situations involving domestic violence, which often lead to supervised visitation of the children.
What is Supervised Visitation?
Under Florida Statute 61.13, it is public policy in the State of Florida that “each minor child has frequent, and continuing contact with both parents after the parents separate or the marriage of the parties is dissolved”. This is done in order “to encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities, and joys, of childrearing.”
That is, of course, unless the child’s safety is in question. If the child’s safety is in question, supervised visitation is often required. Supervised visitation can take many different forms and is typically dependent on the situation. Supervised visitation allows the non-custodial parent to visit with the children under the supervision of another responsible party.
When is Supervised Visitation Appropriate?
Supervised visitation is appropriate in any situation where the child’s safety may be compromised. If there is the possibility that the child may be compromised physically, mentally or otherwise, the court may mandate supervised visitation. As mentioned above, a common reason for supervised visitation is domestic violence within the home. Even if the domestic violence has not been committed against the child or children, the violent nature of the crime may warrant supervised visitation.
Cases of sexual abuse or if a non-custodial parent has a criminal history of committing sexual abuse may also warrant supervised visitation. If a parent is currently under the influence of illicit drugs the court may require supervised visitation as part of the parenting plan. Uncontrolled mental illness represents another situation in which the court can require supervised visitation. If there is any risk of child abduction, especially internationally, supervised visitation is warranted. If a child has been physically neglected or abused while in the care of the non-custodial parent, the court may require supervised visitation.
All of the above situations must be evaluated by the court who then deems the necessity of supervised visitation. While some of the situations mentioned above can be particularly heinous (sexual abuse), supervised visitation is mandated in an effort to ensure the safety of the child while still supporting the family’s relationship and the parent’s rights.
Types of Supervised Visitation
There are several different types of supervised visitation. There is one-on-one supervision, therapeutic supervision, monitored exchange, group supervision, and telephone or video monitoring. One-on-one supervision is most common. This type is when one individual supervises the parent and children.
Therapeutic supervision may be used in cases where the children are particularly distressed about visiting the non-custodial parent. Therapeutic supervision is monitored by a mental health professional like a social worker or a psychologist. The therapeutic supervisor typically just monitors the visit but is available to counsel if needed, monitored exchange isn’t technically a supervised visit but is rather a supervised exchange. A supervised exchange is when a supervisor remains on hand so that one parent can drop the children off to the other parent without having to have any communication with the other parent. The supervisor intercepts the children and takes them to the other parent.
Group supervision is less common but does occur. This is when there are several parent-child groups visiting at the same time, monitored by at least one (often more) supervisors. This can be seen in several situations such as jails, group homes, or detention center.
Telephone and video monitoring is pretty self-explanatory. A visitation may be monitored by video or phone. This is most common with incarcerated parents as the child isn’t granted physical access to the parent.
Who Can Supervise?
The choice of supervisor is often dependent on the severity of the situation. The most common supervisor in less severe cases is a family member or close friend. Often the child’s aunt, uncle or grandparent will supervise the visit. In more severe cases where a family member may not feel safe supervising, professional providers will supervise the visit. These professionals are trained to handle emergencies or dangerous situations. This professional could be a social worker, case manager, or other mental health professional. Supervised visits with a professional are typically documented as part of the case.
Seeking Legal Advice
If a parent is concerned that a child’s safety may be compromised, it’s very important to seek legal counsel concerning supervised visitation. Shared parenting plans do not address supervised visitation unless there is a situation warranting it. If a situation arises, the parent seeking the supervised visitation will be required to prove to the court why the children’s safety is compromised and why supervised visitation is necessary. With any questions concerning supervised visitation, consult your Family Law Attorney.