What is Supervised Visitation?

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

Supervised visitation is a court order that allows a non-custodial parent to have contact with a child only in the presence of a counselor or child services representative. This order is often the result of custody proceedings where there is evidence or accusations of abuse against the non-custodial parent. Supervised visitation is often stressful for everyone involved, including the children stuck in the middle of the arrangement and the custodial parent. Nevertheless, it is meant to allow the building of a healthy and safe relationship between a parent and his or her child, with the assurance of the child's safety as a priority.

Two young boys
Two young boys

Though laws may differ by jurisdiction and region, supervised visitation becomes a consideration in custody hearings if there is evidence of domestic abuse toward either the child or the other spouse, alcohol or drug addiction, mental illness on the part of the non-custodial parent, or a history of non-involvement with the child. Even if these issues exist, a parent may still receive visitation rights as long as paternity is legally established. If a judge believes there is a credible concern about unsupervised time with the non-custodial parent, he or she may order supervised visits only.

Most jurisdictions require that supervision be provided by a professional third party, such as a counselor who specializes in family issues. There are several reasons that a professional is used for supervised visitation rather than a friend or a relative of the child. First, an outside professional is more likely to be both neutral and objective, while a friend or relative of either spouse may not be able to divorce entirely from his or her personal feelings on the matter. Second, a trained professional is more likely to recognize signs of danger to a child, and thus may be in a better position to protect the child's interests.

If there is evidence of domestic abuse between spouses, a judge may also order a related policy called supervised transfer. This allows the custodial parent to drop the child off with a child supervisor before the non-custodial parent arrives, preventing contact between the ex-spouses. This can be a useful order in cases where parents cannot keep their anger toward one another under control, or where the custodial parent has traumatic associations with the non-custodial parent.

It is very difficult for custodial parents to agree to the conditions of supervised visitation, even under a court order. Especially in cases where the non-custodial parent has shown abusive behavior, the custodial parent may feel guilty, angry, and terrified about allowing children to attend visitation. Laws about visitation are notoriously difficult to get around, however, and custodial parents must take care to avoid putting strain or stress on the children involved.

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica is passionate about drama and film. She has many other interests, and enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics in her role as a wiseGEEK writer.

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