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|The examples and perspective in this article deal primarily with the United States and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (March 2011)|
Supervised visitation allows parents in high conflict or high risk situations access to their children in a safe and supervised environment. The noncustodial parent has access to the child only when supervised by another adult. Supervised visitation is used to protect children from potentially dangerous situations while allowing parental access and providing support for the parent child relationship.
Most countries recognize a parent's right to children, called visitation, residence, or contact. Most courts, including American and European, will allow the parent who does not have primary custody or noncustodial parent to have specified visitation and access to the child. In America the parents must establish a parenting plan setting out specific details. If the parents are not able to agree, the court may order specific possession and access or may appoint a parenting coordinator to assist the parents. The United States recognizes that parents have a constitutional right to their children (See Troxel v. Granville), even when the parent is accused of conduct that is dangerous to the child.
In most of the US states there is a law required that court-ordered parenting plans must set forth the minimum amount of parenting time and type of access (i.e. supervised/unsupervised) a non-custodial parent is entitled to have. According to the state laws and court guidelines, the Custody Supervisor cannot change the court order to make major modifications to the amount of parenting time and access, only the minor changes or clarification of parenting time/access schedules or conditions including vacation, holidays, and temporary variation from the existing parenting plan are allowed.
The purpose of supervised visitation is to provide a safe and neutral environment for children to have a relationship with parents, and is often used in high conflict situations. Many courts take the position that it is better to make an error that protects the child as opposed to leaving a child at risk. There are many reasons supervised visitation may be needed:
Supervised visitation has many forms, including one-on-one supervision, group supervision, neutral or monitored exchange, telephone or video monitoring, and therapeutic supervision. .
Supervised visitation is growing worldwide as the protection of children from child abuse, and child abduction (International child abduction in Japan) becomes a growing concern. . Supervised visitation bridges the gap between keeping the child safe and supporting the family relationship and parental rights. One constant, world wide, is that supervised visitation has few legal guidelines as little legislation addresses it directly. However, many courts and state departments have set guidelines regarding supervised visitation.
Since there are few guidelines, who supervises depends on the provider. Friends or family members may be ordered or agree to supervise, or be present during the visit. Professional providers may also be used, depending on the court order.
Professional supervision providers will cost more, but the benefits are great.
Most professional providers require intake forms or an application and maintain intake records. Privacy is of utmost concern, especially when there is a history of domestic violence. Many providers also document visits and maintain visit records. There is controversy over what, if any, records may be used in court. Documentation can be very helpful for parents needing to prove or disprove conduct, such as parent alienation.
Sometimes the noncustodial parent or any party being supervised may feel resentful and nervous. Some feel angry at having to pay to see their children. Having a good attitude is important for making the most of the visit. Also preparation is key.
The custodial parent must also prepare. Attitude is key.
The visit will go much smoother with special care to prepare the child.