While courts ruling on child custody issues always make determinations based on what will be in the best interest of the child, they generally do not like to sever the parent-child relationship. In some cases, however, a parent may be unfit to be alone with a child. In such cases, the court may order supervised visitation so that a parent who has been denied the right to custody of a child can nonetheless continue to foster a relationship with the child. While only being allowed to see a child during a supervised visit is not ideal, it can be a better alternative than being denied access to a child altogether.
Grounds for Supervised Visitation
If one parent believes the other parent presents a risk of harm to the child, he or she can request supervised visitation. If there is more than one child involved in a custody dispute requiring a supervised visitation order, the order will generally apply to all minor children. The purpose of supervised visitation is to protect the child or children involved. As such, it is unlikely that a court would deem unsupervised visitation with a parent safe for one child, but find it unsafe for another child.
A court will only order supervised visitation if it believes a parent is unable to safely spend time alone with a child, and supervised visitation is necessary to protect the child. It will not be granted in cases where the parents merely disagree on details regarding how a child should be raised. Examples of situations in which a court may order supervised visitation are cases where a parent has struggled with addiction or domestic violence issues or is unable to provide a safe living environment for the child.
Terms of Supervised Visitation
A supervisor from a private or court-affiliated agency may fulfill the supervising role, especially in cases of abuse or domestic violence, in which expertise can be beneficial.
Orders granting supervised visitation vary depending on what the court finds appropriate. They can be very restrictive and state that a parent can only spend time with a child at a specified location in the presence of a specific court appointed supervisor. An order may also be more lenient, and allow the parent to have visitation with the child in his in her home, with an approved person supervising the visitation. Or the court may simply order that an approved individual must supervise the parent’s visit with the child. Sometimes a court will set forth an order stating that the parent with primary custody of the child has the discretion to choose when and where any supervised visit will occur.
How Long Can Supervised Visitation Be Imposed?
The length of time a supervised visitation order is in effect will also vary depending on what the court determines is necessary for the safety of the child. Supervised visitation may be ordered for a set amount of time or the court may issue an order stating the supervised visitation it to continue indefinitely. If there is no defined end to the supervised visitation, it will likely continue until the court that imposed the order finds that supervision is no longer required. If the factors that caused the court to issue supervised visitation are no longer present, or the parent subject to supervised visitation can demonstrate they have successfully rehabilitated any concerning behavior, he or she can petition the court for unsupervised visits with his or her child. If the court finds the circumstances no longer warrant that supervised visitation is necessary, it will modify the order and allow the parent unsupervised visitation.