Why Would a Court Require a Parent to Be Supervised During Visitation?

Understanding How Supervised Visitation Works

Roughly 40% of all children in the United States are living in a divided household. There are all sorts of potential ways of sharing custody, ranging from joint custody to supervised visitation. To find the right solution for your custody situation, it can be helpful to learn about the reasons for supervised visitation.

The Parent Has Neglected the Child

When a parent has neglected a child, supervised visitation can be helpful. This allows a caregiver to manage the child’s needs while still letting them form a social or emotional bond with their noncustodial parent. Supervised visitation may be ordered if the parent has been reported to child protective services for neglect, or it can occur if there are credible accusations of neglect. Neglect can take many forms, such as:

  • Forgetting to feed the child
  • Skipping basic hygiene tasks
  • Leaving the child unattended for long periods of time
  • Allowing the child to do dangerous activities without intervention
  • Leaving the child alone with inappropriate caregivers
  • Not sending the child to school
  • Failing to get appropriate medical care for the child

If someone’s parental rights have been suspended due to neglect, the supervised visitation may be temporary. Often, they can have lengthier visits without supervision if they take parental classes to learn about child care. In some cases, the court may also allow unsupervised visitation once the child becomes old enough to care for themselves.

The Child Does Not Know the Parent

Sometimes, supervised visitation does not happen because there are concerns about the child being in danger. It can be used in situations where a parent who did not previously have contact with the child wants to seek more custody. Since it can be traumatic for the child to just be given to the care of a stranger randomly, supervised visitation allows a more gradual introduction between the parent and the child. In most of these sorts of cases, supervised visitation will follow these steps:

  • The parent starts short visits with the child under supervision from a caseworker or another family member.
  • The parent gets to know the child and the child becomes more comfortable with the parent.
  • The parent has longer visits with the child as they become more closely acquainted.
  • Eventually, the parent has overnight visits or other forms of unsupervised visitation.

Supervised visitation in these cases is not a judgment on the person’s character or ability to be a parent. It is simply meant to avoid abrupt changes to the child’s life. Even if the other custodial parent is fine with allowing the new parent in the child’s life, supervised visitation may be recommended at first. As long as the supervised visitation goes well, it is usually the first step toward more custody.

There Is Risk of the Parent Kidnapping the Child

In cases of hotly contested custody, there is sometimes a risk that one parent may try to kidnap the child and illegally prevent the other parent from seeing the child. Supervised visitation can be a way of ensuring a child gets to see their parent without putting them at risk for kidnapping. The court may just order temporary supervised visitation until the situation cools down a little, or it may be a permanent ruling.

Supervised visitation does not happen only in cases where a parent has been legally charged with kidnapping in the past. Instead, it can happen in any case where the court believes there is a credible risk of the parent violating custody arrangements. Some reasons a divorce attorney may be able to argue for supervised visitation include:

  • The parent has a history of violating past custody arrangements.
  • There is proof of conversations where the parent threatens to kidnap the child.
  • The parent has withdrawn large sums of money, discussed hiding the child with other family, or done other things to prepare for a kidnapping.
  • The parent is diagnosed with paranoid or delusional thoughts.
  • The parent is a citizen of another country and has made plans to take the child to that country.

The Parent Has an Untreated and Dangerous Mental Illness

When a parent has a mental illness that puts the child at risk, the court may decide that supervised visitation is the best solution. Just being diagnosed with a mental illness is not enough to automatically disqualify a parent from getting custody. There are plenty of caring and effective parents who have mental illness. However, if the parent refuses to seek treatment or has a mental illness that makes them potentially dangerous to the child, the court may order supervised visitation. Anything that results in unpredictable or neglectful behavior may be a cause of concern. Some of the types of mental illness that may potentially result in supervised visitation include:

  • Bipolar disorder
  • Depression
  • Substance use disorders
  • Anxiety
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Schizophrenia

In these cases, supervised visitation typically ends when the parent is able to seek appropriate treatment. Even if symptoms cannot be entirely removed, the parent can often get more parental rights if they can demonstrate they are no longer a danger. Supervised custody may also end if the child is old enough that the parent’s mental illness is unlikely to cause harm.

There Has Been Abuse in the Household

This is a rather complicated situation because it can be so broad. Any time there are credible allegations that a parent has been abusive to the child or another family member, the court will typically award custody to the non-abusive parent. Abuse does not need to be legally proven in a criminal case for it to impact custody. Whenever the court believes there is a threat to a child, they can require supervision during parental visitation and request further investigation into the matter. All sorts of abuse allegations can lead to supervised visitation, including:

  • Physical abuse of the child
  • Sexual abuse of the child
  • Emotional abuse of the child
  • Abuse of the child’s other parental figure
  • Abuse of other siblings
  • Abuse of any other family members

Whether or not they allow the abusive parent any contact with the child will depend on the situation. The court’s main priority will always be the well-being of the child. They will take into account the type, severity, and duration of the abuse. For older children, the deciding factor will usually be the child’s own preferences. If the child has an attachment to the parent and wants to see them, they may get supervised visitation. However, if the child has been severely traumatized due to sexual or physical abuse, the court may not even allow supervised contact.

In many cases, supervised visitation is only temporary. It may last around six months and end when a parent has completed court-ordered tasks like attending rehab, or it might end when an investigation proves the parent is not a threat to the child. However, in some situations, supervised visitation may continue indefinitely. If you find yourself in a case where supervised visitation is a possibility, talk to a divorce attorney. At the Law Office of Kelly Berton Rocco, we can help you and your family find a custody agreement that meets your needs and keeps your child safe. Call our Hackensack office at (201) 343-0078 or fill out our contact form today to schedule a free consultation with a divorce attorney.

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