Supervised visitation is when a parent is only allowed to visit with their child under the supervision of another individual, such as a family member or a social worker. The visit may take place at the parent’s home or in a designated visitation facility, such as a child care center.
Judges typically order supervised visitation when the visiting parent’s fitness is in question, such as in the event of prior alcohol or substance misuse, or if there have been allegations of abuse or domestic violence.
The purpose of supervised visitation is to ensure that parents have an opportunity to maintain contact with their children in a structured environment that is both safe and comfortable for the child.
How Supervised Visits Work
Typically, the visiting parent will need to report to the designated visitation center to visit with the child, or the judge will arrange for the child to be delivered to the parent’s home. In both cases, the judge will specify who is to supervise the sessions.
Many times, a counselor or social worker supervises contact and ensures that the parent visits with the child in a controlled setting.
When Is Supervised Child Contact Required?
Courts, judges, and CAFCASS officers refer families to child contact centers when supervised contact is in the best interests of the children.
It is often mandated in situations where a parent’s past behavior puts a child’s safety into question. Circumstances for which supervision might be ordered include past allegations of violence or abuse, either toward the other parent or child, substance abuse, or neglect. Supervised contact may also be ordered in cases where a parent is reentering a child’s life after a prolonged period without contact or if there is a risk of abduction.
While it may place certain restrictions on how a parent and child can spend their time together, supervised parenting time still allows parents to foster relationships with their children.
Duration of Supervised Visit Orders
A judge may order supervised visitation temporarily or indefinitely. If there are allegations of abuse or domestic violence, a judge may order that visitation with the accused parent be supervised until the allegations are fully investigated. Judges take allegations of abuse or violence seriously and will investigate these allegations fully. If a judge has already determined that a parent is not fit for custody, the judge can still allow visitation on an ongoing basis, but require that the visitation is supervised in a controlled setting. In these cases, visitation will remain supervised until the parent can demonstrate that there has been a change in circumstances, such as attendance in a drug rehabilitation program, which impacts the parent’s fitness.
Do Visitation Orders Change or Expire?
Once a judge has determined custody and visitation through a court order, the order remains in place until a parent can demonstrate that there has been a change in circumstances. A change in circumstances can be one parent’s decision to move, a parent’s successful completion of rehabilitation or counseling, or other changes that impact a parent’s suitability. The parent who wishes to change the court order must return to court and request that the agreement is modified to reflect the change in circumstances.
What Else Should Parents Know?
Parents should understand that supervised visitation is designed to protect the safety of children while also allowing parents to maintain contact with their children. If you are a parent whose visitation is supervised, consider how you can demonstrate your fitness to a judge. If the other parent has accused you of abuse or domestic violence, you should cooperate with any investigation ordered by the judge. In addition, if you are a parent who is worried about the safety of your child in the presence of the other parent, you should inform the judge of this immediately.
The Visitation Supervisor is responsible for supervising court ordered parenting time. The Visitation Supervisor will protect the integrity of the parenting time by providing a positive atmosphere where parents and children may connect and interact in a safe, structured environment. Additionally, she/he will adhere to the policies and procedures of Families First Center.
Upon receiving a case/referral, the Visitation Supervisor will contact all parties to set up supervised parenting time. Every attempt must be made for visitation with the child’s parent to occur within 48 hours from the time of the completed intake. It is the responsibility of the Visitation Supervisor to abide by the court ordered contract regarding amount of parenting time, the level of supervision, approved visitors and no contact orders.
The Visitation Supervisor will monitor all interactions between the visiting family and will assist the family by strengthening, teaching, demonstrating, and role modeling appropriate skills.
At each visit, the Visitation Supervisor will accurately and objectively document using the approved Families First Center template. Reports are to be completed and sent to the referring agent within 3 days of the visit. In the event of a cancellation, a cancellation report must be sent to the referring agent within 48 hours. A monthly report for each assigned case must be sent to the referring agent no later than 10 days after the month end.
It is the responsibility of the Visitation Supervisor to keep current and accurate information in the client files. The Visit Supervisor is expected to attend meetings and court hearings upon request by the referring agent. It is the responsibility of the Visitation Supervisor to communicate with the Clinical Supervisor and the referring agent about their assigned cases. Any concerns need to be reported immediately via email to the Clinical Director and the referring agent.
Making the Most of Supervised Contact
Children want to have healthy, loving relationships with both of their parents, but separation or divorce often takes a toll on these connections. One of the ways that it does so is by changing the amount of time that parents and children spend together. In some of these cases, third-party supervision requirements dramatically alter the time one parent spends with their children. Frequently enforced by court order, supervised child contact involves scheduled appointments for parent-child contact that will be monitored by a third party in a safe environment.
Types Of Supervised Contact
Depending on the situation, different types of supervised contact may be ordered. Supervised contact between parent and child can take place at someone else’s home or under the supervision of a relative or mutual friend of the parents. It can also take place at a contact centre where trained staff members will monitor the contact session. The staff member will be familiar with the family’s case and can document the events of the session.
Preparing Yourself For Supervised Contact
Getting ready to attend a supervised visit requires both mental and physical preparation.
Whether or not you agree with the supervision requirement, having to see your child on a strict schedule under the supervision of a possible stranger can be mentally exhausting. However, the best thing you can do for yourself and your child is to commit to making the most out of your time together.
Commit to the schedule
Dedicate yourself to attending each scheduled visit and always being on time. Document your schedule, preferably in a place to which both you and your child’s other parent have access. Factor in commute time. Make sure you have enough time before each appointment to arrive on time. Give yourself some breathing time afterwards, if possible. Having important appointments or meetings scheduled immediately after your supervised parenting time can make that time with your child feel rushed and stressful. Keep changes to an absolute minimum, and make sure that when you absolutely have to change the schedule that you give your child’s other parent notice well in advance.
Before each appointment, get yourself ready to focus on your child. It may be simpler said than done, but try not to allow outside worries impact your time with your child.
Whether by taking five minutes before your parenting time to listen to your favourite music or using a calming app for some quick relaxation, clear your mind so you can focus all of your attention on your child.
Supervised child contact should be an enjoyable experience for you and your child, and playing games and doing crafts are just some of the activities you may be able to do together. Think about your child’s interests, and find one or more that you also enjoy and can use to bond over. Also, you might think of something that you and your child can look forward to doing together during each visit. If your child likes listening to stories, choose a book with chapters so that you can both enjoy reading a little more of the story on each visit. If your child likes art or putting things together, choose a craft or project that you can work on a little bit each time you’re together.
Understand supervised contact rules
If your family is using a supervised child contact centre for your parenting time, do your research beforehand and understand the facility’s rules and guidelines.
Rules may include strict timelines for when parents must arrive and depart, fees for late arrivals, guidelines for conduct and behaviour, and other rules. Check your contact centre’s website or contact them directly for guidelines.
Preparing Children For Supervised Time With A Parent
As a parent whose child attends supervised contact with their other parent, it is equally important for you to participate by way of getting your child ready to spend time with their other parent. Talk about these visits beforehand, and get them marked on a calendar to which your child has access. This will help keep them aware of when they’ll next see their other parent and how frequently. More than just talking about when they’ll happen, encourage your child to look forward to them. Even if you have certain negative feelings about your co-parent, support your child in their efforts to build a relationship with their other parent by speaking positively about their upcoming time together. When your child leaves a supervised contact session, be prepared to let your child give you as much information as they want to about it. Don’t interview them about the visit; instead, allow them to say as much as they want.
Tips for Parents Facing the Arrangement
Having to spend time with your child alongside a court-appointed supervisor can be a drag for any divorced parent, but it doesn’t have to be.
Supervised visitation, which often comes as a result of a messy and unpleasant custody proceeding, can stir up a lot of emotions. Because there is a court-ordered supervisor present, parents who find themselves forced into such situations can feel worthless or as though they’re being punished. These negative emotions can cause resentment to boil over and result in the visits being sabotaged, with remarks being hurled at the supervisor, frustrations being vented to or with the child present, and more.
Understand the Situation
During a supervised visit, parents spend time with their child while also laying the groundwork for unsupervised visits in the future. That means being on their best behavior. Parents should always assume that the supervisor will be making notes, even if only mental notes, and will be reporting back to the supervising authority, and to the court. Even if this ends up not being the case, the supervised parent should always assume that it is the case. Parents should arrive for the visit on time, clean and well dressed. They should also be mindful of what they say.
Come Up With a Plan
It’s important that the time a parent spends with their child during supervised visitation is not only fun for them but that you’re both engaged and active. If the visit is not at a supervising center or the child’s own home, the parent should come prepared with books, games, or activities that they and their child can do together.
Bring things that are interactive, not an iPad with a movie on it, both because that’s not as bond-building, and also because you don’t want the supervisor reporting that instead of interacting with your child, you both just stared at a screen. If the parenting time is with a mobile supervisor, then go to a park, to a museum, to the zoo, or even just out for ice cream. The parent who is being supervised should expect to, and offer to, pay for the supervisor’s expenses in these cases.
Don’t Prep Your Child
Parents might feel an urge to talk to their child about what to expect from a supervised visit, this is a bad idea. The best thing to do is to just say ‘You’re going to get to see mommy/daddy!’ Children don’t make nearly such a big deal of this as one might think. They will just focus on getting to spend time with their parent if that’s what you focus on.”
Watch Your Mouth
Parents should avoid profanity at all costs. But they should also never, ever say a bad word about the other parent. Even better, say nice things if you can. For example, if the child complains about mommy, rather than buying into it, say something at least vaguely complimentary about mommy, such as ‘You know that mommy loves you very much and I’m sure she is trying the best that she can.’ This is not only beneficial to the child, but it will also help the parent’s standing with the supervisor, who will report back to the court that they’re being cooperative and encouraging.”
Find a Place to Vent
Despite the brave face a parent might put on, it’s understandable that they’re still going to have feelings of resentment at the unfairness (whether real or perceived) of the confining structure of parental visitation. And it’s important for them to have an outlet to let some of those feelings out. But, it’s important for parents to remember that that outlet can’t be their child and those feelings should never be expressed around the supervisor.
These things need to be talked about with a counselor, a member of the clergy, or a good friend who is completely unconnected from the situation. As anyone else is concerned, you are grateful for the opportunity to show what a good relationship you have with your child—or that you want with your child, if it is currently strained—to the people who are trying to help you further that relationship.
Keeping a positive mindset is vital, as is remembering that the supervisor isn’t the enemy. In fact, if parents play their cards right, they might even be able to turn the situation to their advantage. Keeping a cooperative attitude and showing a supervisor that he or she is willing to do whatever it takes can go a long way towards getting back their unsupervised visits.
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