I answer a lot of questions trying to help people on the law sites, AVVO and LAWYERS.COM. Many of them have to do with visitation disputes, and in particular, people are concerned that their former spouse or ex boyfriend or girlfriend is a potential danger or threat to their children. They want to know under what circumstances a court will order supervised visitation?
The general answer to the question as to when supervised visitation will be ordered, on a practical level is actually very little and under the most aggravated circumstances. Where there is evidence that a person poses a physical or emotional threat to a child, has engaged in child endangerment, child neglect or child abuse, the court would not be hesitant to order supervised visitation. Where there are issues of lack of trust, limited contact, the child doesn’t want to visit,
or even drug or alcohol abuse, unless it can be shown to have had a direct impact on the child, don’t expect the court to order supervised visitation. I see it ordered very rarely, and as stated, only under the most serious and aggravated circumstances.
The other problem with ordering supervised visitation is who is going to supervise it? When the person advocating the other parent have supervised placement and suggests who the supervisor will be, the other person will object and say they don’t get along or trust that individual. Likewise, when the parent whose time is going to be supervised suggests who they will agree should supervise, the other parent objects and says they can’t be trusted for the same reasons the person supervised can’t be trusted and vetoes all such suggestions; that leaves the court with the difficult task of deciding who should be the supervisor, what the days or hours of that supervision should be and what happens if that person isn’t available for one reason or another to serve as a supervisor?
There are non profit organizations and private social workers that do this type of work, but usually they charge, and of course, like so many of these cases, the parties usually have limited funds to pay for mediators, guardian ad litems, and formal organizations or companies that assist parents with supervised periods of placement, but at a cost. If you have to pay $50 or $100 a visit to see your child once or twice a week and have limited funds, you can see how easily it become a financial hardship just to see your child. The other side of it though is if you have engaged in abuse or neglect of your own child and the court believes you are a threat, if you really are sorry for what you did and are serious about having placement, than you must go through hoops, expense and inconvenience to reestablish trust with your child, the other parent, and the court to ultimately to get to a point to have normalized unsupervised and unrestricted visitation.
In many court rooms, judges have a sign that reads “children come first.” I have no problems in appropriate cases for the courts to order supervised placement, to protect a child, but many of the reasons I hear day in and day out, do not rise to the level that the court is going to order that a parent can only see their child as they are such a danger to that child, with someone watching them at all times.
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