When the child’s safety or welfare while in the care of one or both parents is questioned, the courts may order supervised visitation. In most cases, any evidence of domestic violence will automatically involve some sort of court oversight until such time as the home environment is considered safe for the child. Supervised visitation is most often ordered to help parents reintroduce themselves after an estrangement, or to ensure that the child does not suffer from abuse or neglect while in the care of either parent. Supervised visitation may also be ordered in situations where there is a history of mental illness or a threat of parental abduction.
When supervised visitation is ordered, a supervised visitation provider will be called upon to be present during parental visitation. The provider can be a paid professional, or an impartial friend or family member. The visitation supervisor will be present for the entire visit, and will observe behavior and note conversation, while paying close attention to how the visit is unfolding between the parent and child. The provider can, if necessary, interrupt or end a visit if the provider feels the child is endangered. Whether the supervised visitation provider is professional or a family friend or relative, anyone supervising visitation as part of a court order will most likely be required to fulfill a training or educational session provided by the court. Each court will have its rules and regulations regarding who can qualify as a supervised visitation provider.
Supervised visitation can be emotional and frustrating. If you are the parent participating in supervised visitation, it is natural to feel uncomfortable and experience tension. There are some things you can do to make sure the visit runs smoothly, including: arriving on time, avoiding conversation with your child about the court case, refusing to involve your child in disputes you may have with the other parent (including using the child to pass messages to the parent), keeping goodbyes brief and positive. For the custodial parent, supervised visitation can also be stressful, especially in cases where domestic violence has occurred. It can help to prepare your children so that they know what to expect during the visit (explain the location, the duration, who will be present), and avoid asking the child for details of the visit once the child returns to your home.