In child custody cases, the child’s safety and well-being are the top priority of the family law court. If the judge feels a child’s physical or emotional health is at risk with one of the parents, they may order supervised visitation.
What Is Supervised Visitation?
This means the parent spends time with their child or children in the presence of a neutral third-party – called a “provider.” This person can either participate in the visit (if they have a relationship with the child) or remain close by to witness all of the physical interactions and verbal communication (more on providers below).
Situations That Lead To Supervised Visitation
Most supervised visitation orders occur when the judge knows or suspects the other parent:
- Has been absent for most or most of a child’s life, or the child doesn’t have a relationship with the parent yet.
- Has an alcohol, drug, or substance abuse problem.
- Has a history of physical, verbal, or emotional abuse (domestic violence).
- May have mental health issues that negatively impact their judgment and/or parenting decisions.
- Is a kidnapping or flight risk.
In most cases, the overarching goal of supervised visits is to provide a safe space for the child and parent to bond and develop a healthy relationship while also providing the supervised parent with a plan for recovery or a structured, step-by-step protocol for gaining unsupervised visitation rights. However, there are times when supervised visits are permanent.
How Long And How Often Are The Visits?
The judge will order the frequency and duration of the visits. Some things govern this order, such as:
- The parent’s work schedule.
- Availability of the provider.
- What seems healthiest and best for the children.
- The age and needs of the children.
- Any other factors the judge feels are relevant to the order.
- The financial ability to pay for a professional provider’s time if that’s part of the order.
Who Can Serve As A Provider?
There are three types of supervised visitation providers: professional, therapeutic, and nonprofessional.
The judge may order a professional provider to supervise the visits in cases of domestic violence or serious mental illness. The provider will use the judge’s order and talk to you and the other parent to learn more about your story and the family history.
These providers are specially trained to handle complex family systems and how to interact and mitigate any negative impact on the child if something goes wrong during the visit. These providers typically work for an hourly fee, paid for by the non-custodial parent.
Sometimes the judge might specify that a therapeutic provider is needed. This is likely if the supervised parent has a mental illness. You may also benefit from a therapeutic provider in cases where the relationship between the child and the non-custodial parent is dysfunctional, ruptured, or nonexistent.
Then, the therapeutic provider serves in a counseling capacity, helping the parent and child to nurture a healthy relationship, learn how to communicate, and may even support the parent in learning and practicing healthy parenting skills. As with a professional provider, therapeutic providers typically charge a fee paid for by the non-custodial parent.
In other cases, the judge may state a nonprofessional provider will suffice. This person will not have any training and is typically a trusted family member or friend. However, the court has strict guidelines about non-professional provider qualifications, including things like:
- Being at least 21 years old.
- No record of a DUI conviction in the past five years.
- Holding a valid driver’s license, registered car, and insurance.
- No record of a conviction for child molestation, child abuse, or other crimes against a person.
- Not having civil, criminal, or juvenile restraining orders within the last ten years.
- And the list goes on.
You can Click Here to learn more about the California Family Law Court’s laws and codes governing supervised visits and the roles/expectations of providers.
When can you stop having supervised visits?
Once supervised visits are court-ordered, that order remains in place under the terms of the order. In some cases, there may be stipulations – like the non-custodial parent must show proof of certain things (sobriety and regular participation in a recovery program or completing a series of anger management classes, etc.). Once the non-custodial parent submits the proof asked for by the court, the court may issue a new visitation order.
Throughout the duration of the court order, the custodial parent must comply with the supervised visitation schedule. If the custodial parent wants to cease supervised visitation for any reason – whether to end visits altogether or to allow the non-custodial parent to have unsupervised visits, they must file a request for modification through the court.
In the meantime, the current order remains in place and must be honored. If you believe the visits are doing more harm than good for your child, we recommend working with a family law attorney. You’ll have to provide very specific evidence or proof before a court considers terminating visitation rights altogether.
Do Supervised Visits Continue If The Non-Custodial Parent Doesn’t Pay Child Support?
There is absolutely no connection between child support payments and child visitation orders. If the non-custodial parent is in arrears (the term for skipping payments or making incomplete payments), you’ll need to pursue that through the family law courts. They’ll work with the non-custodial parent to issue payments, even if that means garnishing wages, freezing bank accounts, or even suspending their driver’s license or passport privileges.
Regardless, the current child custody and visitation order remains in place, and lack of payment never alters that.
The Law Offices Of Gerard A. Falzone Can Help Establish Healthy Supervised Visitation
Do you feel supervised visitations are essential to the health and well-being of your child? Or do you feel the custodial parent is exaggerating and that supervised visitation is unfair in your situation? The Law Offices of Gerard A. Falzone is here to help. We’ll listen to your situation and make recommendations on how to confidently move forward with the safety, health, and well-being of your children as the top priority. Contact us to schedule a consultation.