Supervised visitation is typically ordered by the Court to ensure children's safety when divorced or separating parents are in high conflict situations. It is based on two premises:
- Children do best when they have reliable, ongoing relationships with both parents.
- Children's emotional and physical safety must always be guaranteed.
Reasons to Supervise Visits
Supervised visitation may be useful in situations where the non-custodial parent:
- is working on improving his/her parenting skills
- may have a drug or alcohol abuse problem
- has been abusive or has had trouble controlling anger
- may have been away from the child for a long period of time
- may have never spent time with the child
- may have been involved in inappropriate sexual behavior with the child
Supervised visitation can take many forms
Success is up to you
- In the presence of a neutral third party. For example, friends of the family, a grandparent or other family member, neighbors, child care provider etc.
- In the presence of the custodial parent. This option is sometimes used when a child is very young. Parents who choose to provide supervision in this manner must work extremely hard to ensure that their child is not exposed to conflict. Research show that even infants react negatively to parental conflict.
- At a neutral location where the visit is monitored by professionals. These sites are often staffed by professional staff and volunteers who have been trained to supervise visits. Information about supervised visitation sites can be found here.
- With a mental health professional. Therapists or other mental health professionals who provide supervised visitation are trained in post-divorce issues. The visits are usually one-on-one and more expensive than at a visitation site. Insurance typically does not cover supervised visits.
If you and your children have been assigned to supervised visitation, it is up to you as the adults to make it a positive experience. While it isn't the same as unsupervised time, it is valuable time with your children. Supervised visitation brings with it obvious limitations on your activities and time, which can be frustrating for adults and children. But learn to make the best of the situation.
Children spell love T-I-M-E
It helps to remember how very much your children need regular, predictable time with both parents. If supervised visitation is the only way for you to remain connected to your children, participate willingly and make the most of your time.
Ten Tips for Success
If You are the Visiting Parent
It is crucial for you to set yourself and your children up for success as you undertake the process of supervised visitation. Here are some guidelines to ensure that success.
- Follow the schedule for your visits to the letter. Cancel for emergencies only.
- Arrive on time.
- Focus on your children. Supervised visitation is not the time to ask about the other parent, exchange information etc. This is your time with your children.
- Come to the visit prepared to talk and play with your children. Bring books, toys, games etc. (if allowed by the visitation site.) Have a plan for how to spend the time, but also be open to suggestions from your children.
- Talk with your children about things you are doing in your life. Show an interest in the things that matter to your children. Ask questions about their activities, but do not press for information.
- Keep your word. If you say you are going to do something, do it. Never make promises you can't keep.
- Avoid talking about the divorce, the other parent, and court actions. Supervised visitation is a time for you and your children to be together, build (or rebuild) connections and have fun. Keep your conversation positive and light.
- Don't make critical comments about the other parent. Ever. And likewise, avoid negative comments about the supervised visitation.
- Follow to the letter the rules set forth by the supervisor . Respect the process.
- Above all else, relax and enjoy your children.
Ten Tips for Success
If You are the Custodial Parent
You have it within your control to set your children up for success when they have a supervised visit with their other parent. Following these guidelines will help you and your children.
- Follow the schedule for your children's visits with the other parent. Only cancel for emergencies. If you cancel the visit, be willing to schedule a make up time.
- Arrive on time.
- Prepare your children for the visit. For young children mark supervised visitation days on a calendar. Make sure older children know in advance when the visit is going to happen, rather than springing it on them at the last minute. Help gather toys and belongings for the visit.
- Be positive. Demonstrate to your children through your words and actions that you want them to have this time with the other parent.
- Don't talk about the divorce, the other parent and court actions with your children or in their presence.
- Do everything you can to keep your children out of conflict that may exist between you and the other parent. Conflict is toxic for children.
- Don't criticize or badmouth the other parent or the supervised visitation. No matter what.
- If having your children see the other parent is a problem for you, don't ignore your feelings. Talk with a therapist, a friend, a professional from your church or synagogue, or someone who can be supportive and objective.
- After the visit, don't pump your children for information about what went on. Accept the things that they tell you, on their own time schedule. Be a good listener. If you hear things that concern you, talk with the person who supervised the visit.
- Watch your nonverbal language. Sometimes a simple expression on your face can speak volumes to your children about your lack of support of the parent or the visits.
Sometimes parents don't need supervised visitation. Instead they need a neutral, safe location where they are able to transition their children from one parent's care to the other parent - without seeing each other.
In a monitored exchange, one parent will bring the children to an agreed upon location (usually a visitation site) and leave them with the staff who will monitor the exchange. The second parent arrives about 15 minutes later and picks up the children. At the agreed upon ending for the parenting time, the parent who has the children brings them back to the center and leaves the children in the staff's care. 15 minutes the first parent arrives to retrieve the children.
There is typically a charge for the monitored exchange, but it is less than the fee for a supervised visit.
Monitored exchanges allow for conflict free, smooth transitions for children.
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