Supervised Visitation: Tips for Visiting and Custodial Parents

supervised visitation

Supervised visitation is a serious step taken by the courts to protect the welfare of the child. The safety of the child is the most important reason for supervised visits. Other factors like substance or physical abuse, unfit living conditions, a diagnosis of mental illness, fear of parental abduction or incarceration can also weigh into the decision for supervised visitation.

If you are faced with supervised visitation, what does this mean? How does it work? In this post, we share information and advice about supervised visitation for both sides – the visiting parent and the custodial parent.

Typically, the parent reports to a designated location, be it a visitation center, a home, etc. Court ordered visitation can be set up in a couple of different manners. A third party can be the supervisor, or the visits can be supervised by a professional at a predetermined location through an organization that offers such services or by the child’s therapist, if available.

Professional supervision is usually selected by the court if there is a history of child abuse, substance abuse or physical abuse. Social workers who are responsible for the supervision are trained in how to deal with domestic violence, how to identify unsafe situations for the child, family dynamics, etc.

The social worker at the agency makes regular reports to the court about these supervised visits. They detail the number and length of the visits, who was present, what happened at each visit, the behavior, and actions of the parent, the parent-child relationship, etc.

The judge can opt for several different venues for the supervised visits, anything from the Courthouse under the supervision of a social worker to a family member’s home under their supervision. The order might also be for the visitation to take place in a public place without direct supervision of another person. The court can also determine if the visits can be off-premise.

Wherever the visitation takes place, there are cons to consider. For a courthouse setting, this can prove to be an uncomfortable situation for the children since they will feel that they are being watched and judged.

Supervision by a family member also proposes problems. First, the family member must not have a criminal history and must be vetted by the courts. The family member must also be willing to be a responsible supervisor and meet the visitation schedule set by the court.

Any agency that sponsors the visitation should have strict policies in effect that outline the pickup and drop off procedures. An example would be for a fifteen-minute gap between the time one parent drops off the child and the other parent arrives. They can also opt to use different entrances and waiting rooms for the parents. Of course, the facility should screen for weapons and contraband. Finally, confidentiality should always be maintained to protect the safety of the children and parents.

In the court order, the judge will determine the frequency and duration of each visit. The order might not have an end date based on the judge’s determination. A parent may have to complete other requirements in order to continue with the visitations, again based on the circumstances and what the judge sees as appropriate. This order stays in place until the judge changes it, either through a parental request, a request of the supervising agency or by the expiration of the order.

Now that you know what to expect, how should you prepare for these visits? What should you do?

Here are some great tips to help you through these supervised visits:

  • Be fifteen to twenty minutes early for each visit. This shows that you are responsible and that you have a keen interest in your children.
  • Resolve any transportation issues prior to the first visit.
  • Don’t miss a visit for any reason. Your children come first.
  • Show up clean and sober. Don’t exhibit any aggressive behavior. Take your medication, if warranted.
  • Be cognizant that you are being constantly evaluated during these supervised visits. The more positive parenting skills you show, the greater the chance of you having unsupervised visits.
  • Be prepared for your visit. It is the parent’s responsibility to make these visits a positive experience for the children.
  • Bring along books, games, toys. Come up with some interactive activities. If you can go to a venue, choose one that is also interactive like the park, zoo, children’s museum, etc.
  • Learn what your children are interested in. Keep up to date on their friends, interests, homework, school projects, extracurricular activities, etc.
  • Show affection, care, and love.
  • Share things about your life with your children; hobbies, work, interests.
  • Do not say negative things to the children (or the supervisor) about the other parent. Focus all your attention on the children.
  • Have an outlet where you can freely express your feelings about the situation. Never let the outlet be your children.
  • Stay positive because positive parenting and attitude can award you unsupervised visitation.
  • If you can suggest a supervisor, then select a family member or close friend.   Suggest to the courts that you have a couple of supervisors lined up so as not to miss a visit with your children.
  • Your ex (the custodial parent) should not be present during these supervised visits.
  • Let go of your anger. If needed, find a friend to vent to or seek professional help.
  • Demonstrate positive parenting practices. Seek professional help if you need help in identifying these.
  • Don’t miss any visits unless a dire emergency. It shows you to be responsible. Remember that the children need stability and a reliable parent.
  • Don’t be late.
  • Follow the order of the court precisely

For the custodial parent, how should you prepare for these visits? What should you do?

  • Do not coach your child about the supervised visit. Just tell them they are going to visit the other parent.
  • Don’t cancel.
  • Be on time
  • Make sure the children know in advance about the visit.
  • Be positive and do not talk negatively about the other parent, the divorce, the visits, etc.
  • Seek professional help to assist you in overcoming any negative feelings you have about your ex, the visits, etc.
  • Don’t grill your children about the things that happened at the visit. Allow them to share on their own time in their own way.
  • Be mindful of nonverbal behavior and try to show positive body language.

Here are some additional bits of advice to help you navigate this sensitive issue of supervised parental visits:

  • Any changes to the visitation schedule should be presented to the court. The exact wording of the order will determine if you can refuse the suggested visitation dates.
  • For children with physical or mental health issues, it is suggested that the non-custodial parent get the proper training by a professional to deal with the child’s health issues. The professional might then be able to attest to his/her competency to parent the child.
  • In circumstances where the non-custodial parent has their own mental health issues like schizophrenia, you most likely will need documentation about their condition and behavior and how it presents a danger to your child. These would need to be presented to the court.
  • If you suspect illegal behavior, child abuse, etc. then you must have substantiating evidence to support your claim in order to get supervised visitation awarded.
  • There is nothing you can do if the other parent does not pursue the supervised visitation order. It is solely their choice and you are not in violation of the order if they ignore it.
  • If the person designated to be the supervisor is unfit or unreliable, you must obtain substantiating evidence to prove your allegations to the court.
  • The designated supervisor does not have to accept this role and can request that the judge appoint some else.

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