About once a week, I get a client demanding that their ex be forced to endure visitation with the children in a supervised setting.
It usually takes a great deal of patience and a lengthy, but frank discussion, to get my client to understand that judges don’t just hand out supervised visitation like candy.
Stated another way, supervised visitation is the exception, not the rule for custody cases and is usually only ordered by a judge under extreme and very specific circumstances.
We wrote this article to help guide parents thinking about supervised visitation and to answer frequently asked questions about supervised visitation in family court cases.
What is supervised visitation?
Supervised visitation is a type of visitation that allows a non-custodial parent to maintain their constitutional rights to have contact with their children in a controlled environment.
Why would a judge consider supervised visitation?
In some cases, a judge might consider supervised visitation when there is a question about the child's safety with the non-custodial parent.
For example, if a parent is abusing methamphetamine, a judge might consider supervised visitation to ensure the child has contact with the parent but to also be sure that the child is safe during the visitation.
Think of it this way . . .
Generally, supervised visitation is used to protect children from potentially dangerous situations while allowing parental access and providing support for the parent child relationship.
Who supervises the visits if a judge orders supervised visitation?
There are many options when a judge considers supervised visitation.
In Nevada, the most restrictive and formal supervised visitation is visitation that occurs at the Courthouse through a program called Donna's House or at Child Haven. Again, this is the most restrictive type of supervised visitation and is only ordered in rare circumstances.
When this type of supervised visitation is ordered, it is usually a courthouse employee, like a social worker, who is paid to observe visits between a parent and child that will supervise the visitation.
Also, when this type of supervised visitation is ordered, both parents will have to go through an orientation where the rules of the supervised visitation will be explained. In addition, there might be other restrictions on supervised visitation. For example, the supervised parent may not be able to bring gifts for the child or food to the visitation.
Finally, these types of visits usually require both parties to make payment each time a visit occurs.
What if I am ordered to have supervised visitation but not at a courthouse or through a formal program?
If your judge is considering an alternative to formal, court supervised visitation, a judge may order a friend or family member to supervise visits.
These visits can usually occur at a park, a restaurant or other community setting.
The supervisor is usually someone both parents approve.
In some cases, the judge may restrict your activities with the child even if a family member or friend is supervising the visitation. For example, the judge may say that you can only visit with the child at the supervisor's home with the supervisor present. Or the judge may say, the supervisor must provide line of sight supervision. This means that the supervisor (friend or family member) must be able to see you and the child at all times during the visitation.
Finally, a judge might also consider community supervised visitation. This means that the parent does not need a specific supervisor to watch visitation but the visits between parent and child must occur in a public place, usually a restaurant.
When will a judge order supervised visitation?
Supervised visitation may be ordered for a number of different reasons.
Child safety is the biggest reason a judge will consider supervised visitation.
If a parent presents a danger to a child, for example, the parent has a known drug or alcohol problem, supervised visitation may be awarded.
Another reason for a judge to consider supervised visits, is if a parent does not have suitable living arrangements for a child. For example, if a parent is homeless or resides somewhere that is not safe for the children, a judge may consider supervised visitation.
Another reason a judge might order supervised visitation is if the parent and child don't know each other very well. The judge might consider having supervised visitation so the child gets to know the parent and feels comfortable being around the parent. Once the parent-child relationship bond is established, it is likely that the judge will lift an supervised visitation requirements.
The decision to award supervised visitation is based solely on the facts of each individual case and is up to the judge.
Why should a parent should think twice about requesting supervised visitation?
The bottom line?
Court supervised visitation sucks.
It occurs at the Courthouse and is NOT fun for kids.
It places your children under a microscope and is just generally uncomfortable for everyone involved.
In addition, it can become very expensive if supervised visits are ordered long term. If you have court supervised visitation, you will have to pay for each visit to be supervised. This can become very expensive if court supervised visits occur multiple times a week or if the visits are happening over a long period of time.
Parents requesting supervised visitation should seriously consider requesting Court supervised visits and should discuss the pros and cons of their specific case with an attorney.
Visitation supervised by a friend or family member should also be carefully considered.
You should be prepared to present the friend/family member supervisor to the Court and have them fully vetted by the Judge.
If your proposed supervisor has a criminal history or if there are hard feelings between the proposed supervisor and the other parent, chances are the Court will not approve them to supervise.
In addition, you need to be sure your proposed supervisor is able to accommodate the visits. Judges don’t like it when a parent proposes someone to supervise and the supervisor is constantly cancelling visits.
When can I get supervised visitation changed?
It depends on the facts of your case.
If supervised visitation was ordered due to child safety concerns, like drug abuse or homelessness, you will need to show the judge there are no longer issues if you want supervised visitation requirement removed.
If supervised visitation was ordered because you and the child didn't have a relationship, you will need to be able to show the judge that you and the child now have a good relationship, that the child is not afraid or timid to be around you and that you can care for the child outside of a supervised setting.
How do I explain to the Judge that my case needs to have supervised visitation for the other parent?
Make absolutely certain that your case is one where supervised visitation is appropriate.
If you are simply demanding supervised visitation because you want the other parent to have to jump through hoops to see the children, the judge will consider you unreasonable and it is highly unlikely supervised visitation will be ordered.
Your case should have some element of child safety concerns. If you are concerned about drug use by the other parent, be prepared to explain this to the judge. If CPS is involved with your ex and your children, explain this to the judge and explain why supervised visitation is required. If the other parent does not have suitable arrangements for the children, explain why your case should rise to the level of supervised visitation.
In cases where a parent is considering making a request for supervised visitation, it is strongly recommended that you consult with an attorney.
An attorney can discuss the specific facts of your case and provide guidance on how to present an argument that will assist in obtaining the best possible outcome for you and your children.
If you are facing supervised visitation questions, call us today at (702) 433-2889 or submit your questions on-line through our on-line form.
We can help answer any questions you might have about supervised visitation and child custody.