So you have a Supervised Visitation Court Order…Now What?
What is Supervised Visitation?
Supervised Visitation refers to a contact between a non-custodial parent (NCP) and one or more children in the presence of a neutral third person responsible to observing and seeking to ensure the safety of those involved. “Provider Visitation”, Supervised Child Access” and Supervised Child Contract” are other terms with the same meaning.
What is Supervised Exchange?
Supervised Exchanges sometimes referred to as “Provider Exchanges” or “Supervised/Provider Transfers”, is supervision of the transfer of the child from one parent to the other. Supervision is limited to the exchange or transfer only with the remainder of the parent/child contact remaining unsupervised. Most frequently precautions are taken to assure that the two parents or other individuals exchanging the child do not come into contact with one another.
What is the purpose?
Both Supervised Visits and Supervised Exchanges are designed to assure that a child can have safe contact with an absent parent without having to be put in the middle of the parents’ conflicts or other problems. It is the child’s need that is paramount in making any decisions regarding the need for such supervision. However, there are also some significant benefits to parents. It is our hope that no one will look upon supervised visitation or exchange as a negative or stigmatized service. It is a tool that can help families as they go through difficult and/or transitional times. Some of the benefits for the various family members are as follows:
For the children:
- It allows the children to maintain a relationship with both of their parents something that is generally found to be an important factor in the positive adjustment to family dissolution.
- It allows them to anticipate the visits without the stress of worrying about what is going to happen and to enjoy themselves in a safe, comfortable environment without having to be put in the middle of their parents’ conflict and/or other problems.
For the custodial parents:
- You do not have to communicate or have contact with a person with whom you are in conflict or by whom you might be frightened or intimated. The arrangements can be made by a neutral party (the visit supervisor/provider) and there does not have to be contact before, during, and after the visits.
- You can relax and feel comfortable allowing your child to have contact with the other parent-and can get some valuable time to yourself.
For the non-custodial parents:
You can be sure that your contact with your children does not have to be interrupted regardless of any personal or interpersonal problems you may be having.
If allegations have been made against you, which are often the case when supervision is ordered, you can visit without fear of any new accusations because there is someone present who can verify what happened during your time together. When using a professional service, you can also be assured that the supervisors are neutral and objective.
Supervision in the case of parental separation:
When parents separate, the children most often will have primary residence with one parent and regularly spend time with the other. Visitation, contact, and access are words used to refer to post-separation contact with the non-residential parent or another significant person, such as a grand-parent, sibling, or other relative. When the courts feel it is appropriate, they may order that such visitation take place in the presence of a third party.
Supervised exchanges may be court ordered or arranged by the parent and are generally appropriate when there is no question about the safety of the child, but when one or both parents do not feel safe or comfortable interacting directly with the other. It is always better for the child to not be put into a situation where he/she is exposed to the anger and conflict of the parents.
Supervision in the case of out-of-home placement:
When a child comes under the jurisdiction of Child Protective Services (CPS) and is removed from the home because of a risk of child abuse or neglect, it is usually important that the parent/child relationship continue.
CPS generally provides these services. However, they may have limited resources that restrict the frequency, duration, and nature or the contact. In some areas, they have found it useful to contract with outside supervised visitation programs to provide services.
Since supervision in the case of out-of-home placement is generally controlled very closely by the state or local CPS regulations, the information here applies primarily to supervision in the case of parental separation.
How do I make sure the service will meet my needs?
Be sure to check the court order to see if it specifics the kind of supervision (Off site or On site, Professional or Non-professional). Then check with the provider to see that all conditions can be met. Due to the limited resources available in most communities for such services, if the court order specifies a “on site agency/facility” you will probably have to be flexible and travel a distance. Some agencies are open for limited times, particularly in smaller communities. Most Professional Provider’s work weekdays, weekends and holidays. Do your Homework. Ask for references. Ask for a copy of their Certificate of Completion obtained from training class. Ask if they have Professional Liability Insurance.