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Can Supervised Visitation Be Part Of Our Custody Agreement?

Whenever a marriage falls apart and divorce ensues, one of the most complex and emotionally-charged topics is the custody agreement. While it is always advisable for couples to be amicable and work together on a custody agreement that will benefit not only them, but also the children who are involved, there are sometimes issues that arise that lead to the possibility of supervised visitation being included in the custody agreement. However, since this will have to be approved by the court, many factors will come into play that will help determine if this will be part of the overall custody agreement.

Why is Supervised Visitation Requested?
In most custody agreement cases, supervised visitation is requested by one parent due to behaviors the other parent is exhibiting. For example, if a parent is neglecting basic parental duties such as picking up the child after school, or is displaying behaviors that may put the child’s welfare in jeopardy, such as excessive drinking or drug use, the court may find it in the best interests of the child to have supervised visitation.

What is Supervised Visitation?
Just as its name implies, supervised visitation involves having a third-party supervise all visits between a child and a non-custodial parent. The third person in charge of supervising the visits can come from a variety of areas, such as a trusted family member agreed to by both parents, or perhaps a social worker, nurse, or attorney. But along with deciding who will supervise the visits, parents must also come to an agreement as to where the visits will take place. In some cases the visits will occur in the child’s home, but if this is deemed a risk by the court, the visits may take place at a social service office, school, or other place designated by the court.

Do Most Parents Agree to Supervised Visitation?
While in some situations a parent will agree to supervised visitations, in most instances it is a stipulation ordered by the court. Because the parent who is being forced to accept supervised visitation usually feels as if their parental rights are being taken away from them, this issue is one that can lead to many hurt feelings on both sides. Because of this, attorneys and judges will often implore parents to reach an agreement on this issue, since it will allow both of them to maintain a level of control over the proceedings.

Presenting Evidence
Since supervised visitation is something the court only orders if it feels the child’s welfare is at risk, it’s crucial to only request this as part of a custody agreement if there is evidence to back up your claims. For example, if one parent is getting arrested for DUI or drug possession, has been documented as being violent toward the child or others, or has made threats about abducting the child, this evidence should be presented to the court as soon as possible. Therefore, working with an attorney who is experienced in these matters is of the utmost importance, since they will know how to proceed with this evidence.

Can the Court Nullify Supervised Visitation?
Since this issue is viewed so seriously by the court, it’s important to remember that just because a request for supervised visitation has been made does not guarantee the court will grant the request. In most cases, the court will deny supervised visitation if the other parent presents evidence that contradicts that of the parent requesting supervised visitation, or if the court believes the request is being made only in an attempt to punish the other parent. Also, if the court feels there is no reason why both parents should not be able to work out an agreement for unsupervised visitations, or perhaps even joint custody, a request for supervised visitation will usually be denied.

Additional Limitations
Along with supervised visitations, the court may choose to impose additional limitations if it believes the child will be put at unnecessary risk. For example, the court may choose to impose restrictions as to where the non-custodial parent may take the child, or who may be allowed to supervise the visits. Along with this, it can also determine the length of the visits, how often they occur, and even order the non-custodial parent to complete drug, alcohol, anger management, or parenting skills classes prior to being approved for supervised visitation. While this may not happen in most instances, the court always has the discretion to do so, citing the best interests of the child.

Work It Out Together
To have the best chances of having supervised visitation approved by the court, it’s always best if both parents come together to reach an understanding. To help this come about, attorneys for both parents, as well as mediators if necessary, can help craft an agreement that both parties will accept. By always keeping the best interests of the child first and foremost in their discussions, both parents can find a way to make a difficult situation a bit easier for everyone.

Consult an Attorney
Whether you are the parent requesting supervised visitation or the non-custodial parent who may be subjected to this court order, it’s always best to consult an attorney skilled in family law. By doing so, you will not only ensure your parental rights are fully protected, but also make sure your child’s interests will be at the top of the list as well.