Supervised visitation

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Supervised visitation allows parents in high conflict or high risk situations access to their children in a safe and supervised environment. The noncustodial parent has access to the child only when supervised by another adult. Supervised visitation is used to protect children from potentially dangerous situations while allowing parental access and providing support for the parent child relationship.

Legal status[edit]

Most countries recognize a parent's right to children, called visitation, residence, or contact. Most courts, including American and European, will allow the parent who does not have primary custody (the noncustodial parent) to have specified visitation and access to the child. In America the parents must establish a parenting plan setting out specific details. If the parents are not able to agree, the court may order specific possession and access or may appoint a parenting coordinator to assist the parents. The United States recognizes that parents have a constitutional right to their children (See Troxel v. Granville). In this case the United States Supreme Court stated that "the interest of parents in the care, custody and control of their children--is perhaps the oldest of the fundamental liberty interests recognized by this Court."[1]

In most of the US states there is a law required that court-ordered parenting plans must set forth the minimum amount of parenting time and type of access (i.e. supervised/unsupervised) a non-custodial parent is entitled to have.[2][3][4][5][6] According to the state laws and court guidelines, the Custody Supervisor cannot change the court order to make major modifications to the amount of parenting time and access, only the minor changes or clarification of parenting time/access schedules or conditions including vacation, holidays, and temporary variation from the existing parenting plan are allowed.[2][3][4][5][7]


The purpose of supervised visitation is to provide a safe and neutral environment for children to have a relationship with parents, and is often used in high conflict situations. Many courts take the position that it is better to make an error that protects the child as opposed to leaving a child at risk. There are many reasons supervised visitation may be needed:


Supervised visitation has many forms, including one-on-one supervision, group supervision, neutral or monitored exchange, telephone or video monitoring, and therapeutic supervision. .

  • One-on-one supervision is when a one parent and that parent's children are supervised alone, but some providers allow guest to also attend.
  • Group supervision may include several parent-child groups in a larger areas, supervised by one or more monitors.
  • Neutral or monitored exchange allows parents to pick up and drop off, or exchange the child for changes of possession, without direct contact with each other, minimizing conflict.
  • Telephone or video monitoring has become more popular as people move around the world more, allowing for monitoring of telephone, videoconferencing, and other virtual visitation.
  • Therapeutic supervision involves either visitation being monitored or assisted by a trained psychologist or social worker, especially valuable when the children are emotionally unable to visit the noncustodial parent without a strong emotional reaction, or when dealing with parental alienation syndrome.

World wide[edit]

Supervised visitation is growing worldwide as the protection of children from child abuse, and child abduction (International child abduction in Japan) becomes a growing concern. .[12] Supervised visitation bridges the gap between keeping the child safe and supporting the family relationship and parental rights. One constant, world wide, is that supervised visitation has few legal guidelines as little legislation addresses it directly. However, many courts and state departments have set guidelines regarding supervised visitation.[13]

Who supervises[edit]

Since there are few guidelines, who supervises depends on the provider. Friends or family members may be ordered or agree to supervise, or be present during the visit. Professional providers may also be used, depending on the court order.

  • One obvious drawback to friends and family members as supervisors is the quality of supervision and their dedication.
  • Friends and family members may not be able to keep the child safe and may not feel comfortable confronting the noncustodial parent if issues arise.
  • If the friends or family of the custodial parent are supervising, the noncustodial parent and the child may be inhibited from fully participating in the visit.

Professional supervision providers will cost more, but the benefits are great.

  • Most professional providers, world wide, will have some sort of intake and documentation process.
  • Many providers have a location set up for visits and may be willing to go off-site to parks and other places fun for children.
  • Professional supervisors are trained to handle emergencies and do not avoid confrontation.
  • Professional monitors work to be sure the visit is neutral and open for the child to have fun with the noncustodial parent.
  • Professional providers will maintain a supervised environment for the duration, usually documenting the visit.


Most professional providers require intake forms or an application and maintain intake records. Privacy is of utmost concern, especially when there is a history of domestic violence. Many providers also document visits and maintain visit records. There is controversy over what, if any, records may be used in court. Documentation can be very helpful for parents needing to prove or disprove conduct, such as parent alienation.

Prepare for Visits[edit]

Sometimes the noncustodial parent or any party being supervised may feel resentful and nervous. Some feel angry at having to pay to see their children. Having a good attitude is important for making the most of the visit. Also preparation is key.

  • Bring food (check policies) if there is a mealtime during visit or it is a long visit.
  • Plan activities the child will like.
  • Stay focused on the child.
  • Plan to meet the child's needs.
  • Do not discuss the case.
  • Do not speak negatively about the other parent or family.

The custodial parent must also prepare. Attitude is key.

  • Encourage the child to have fun.
  • Say good bye quickly.
  • Do not interrogate the child after visits.
  • Do not discuss the case.
  • Do not speak negatively about the other parent or family.
  • Let the child be comfortable having fun with the noncustodial parent.
  • Prepare the child for the visit by letting them know general policies of the provider for their safety and protection.
  • Introduce the child to the provider.
  • Let the child know you want them to have fun.

The visit will go much smoother with special care to prepare the child.


External links[edit]