Supervised visitation, also called supervised parenting time, is where a parent sees their child in the presence of a third party. In a supervised parenting arrangement, the parent is not to be left alone with the child, even briefly. Supervised parenting time is to ensure the child’s safety, while still maintaining the child’s relationship with that parent.
In circumstances where a parent has a history of drug or alcohol abuse, especially if in the presence of the child, supervised parenting time is often ordered by the Court. Supervised parenting time is also routinely ordered where there has been domestic violence in the presence of the child, or if the child has an order of protection in their favor against that parent.
There are several options for supervision. Often parents agree to use a friend or family member to “supervise.” Not only is the child more comfortable, but this allows more freedom – the parent can even be at home with the child instead of at a facility or in a public place. The friend or family member who has agreed to supervise usually has to appear before the Judge to specifically accept the responsibility. However, if the parents cannot agree on the suitability of a friend or family member, the Court will likely not appoint that person.
Alternatively, there are Court approved visitation supervisors, usually social workers, who work for an organization or facility. Depending on the organization, the visits can take place at a center, which is equipped with a playroom and staff. Or, many organizations offer the option of “off-site” supervision, where a supervisor allows the parent to take the child to a public place like a park, mall or restaurant. There is usually a fee associated with each visit, which is another reason that parents choose a family member or friend if at all possible.
Supervised parenting time is most often used as a stepping stone, leading to more time, and eventually unsupervised visits. There is also an intermediate option for supervision to be “sandwiched”. For example, the visit will be supervised for the first portion and last portion, but the middle time period would be unsupervised.