In accord with the prevailing standard of safeguarding and promoting the best interests of the child in custody and visitation cases, courts in California have the option of ordering supervised visitation in cases where it is necessary to protect children from potentially dangerous situations.
The law is not interested in keeping parents away from their children, and vice versa, unless there are compelling reasons to do so. While one parent or a guardian may be awarded sole physical custody, the other parent can request visitation rights, sometimes also called parenting time, in order for the non-custodial parent to spend time and create a bond with their child.
The court assumes that the parent also wants what is best for their child; realistically, however, this may not always be true. If the court has reason to believe, based on sufficient evidence, that the child spending time alone with the non-custodial parent is potentially dangerous for the child, the court may either deny a request for visitation or order supervised visitation.
Some of the grounds for a supervised visitation include:
- a history of violence or domestic abuse;
- a history or concern of mental illness;
- a history of drug or alcohol abuse;
- a threat of child abuse;
- a threat of parental abduction; or
- when there has been no prior relationship or there has been a period of long absence, and there is no existing relationship
What can a supervised visitation order provide?
Each visitation order, whether supervised or not, is uniquely suited to each individual circumstance and is intended to ensure the safety and welfare of the child at all times. A court will provide the specifications for the supervised visits, but there are some basic conditions that a supervised visitation order can provide, including:
- the time, place and duration of each supervised visit;
- The presence of a neutral third person, which can be a designated monitor, social worker, or a supervised visitation provider, who is required to be present at all times;
- That the provider is to provide written safety and security procedures and protocol, with the assistance of the local law enforcement agency, which should be communicated to the parties prior to the supervised visit;
- a written report of each supervised visit;
- what should not be allowed in each supervised visit, including communications or discussions about the other party or parent; threats or violence against the child; that the parent exercising visitation rights should not be under the influence of alcohol or other substances; or no physical contact unless allowed by the court
Types of supervised visitation
There are different types of supervised visitation, which may include:
- One-on-one visitation, where only the parent, the child, and the neutral third person are present;
- Group supervision, where the parent and child meet in a large gathering of other parents and children and one or more professional monitors;
- Telephone or video monitoring, where the supervised visitation takes place remotely, either through a telephone or video conference; or
- therapeutic visitation, where the neutral third person is a professional psychologist or social worker who helps facilitate communication between the parent and child
Violations of a supervised visitation order
What happens when the noncustodial parent exercising visitation rights violates one or more of the conditions of the supervised visitation order?
The non-custodial parent should be warned that a violation of any of the conditions of a visitation order could adversely affect his visitation rights or right to parenting time. If he is unable to adhere to protocols set in place to protect the welfare and safety of his child, then the court may further limit or deny his visitation rights altogether.
In extreme cases, the parent in violation of the supervised visitation order may be held in contempt of court, and may also run the risk of being subjected to some jail time.
It must be noted that the custodial parent also runs the risk of being held in contempt for violating a supervised visitation order if he decides to refuse the non-custodial parent visitation rights. In extreme cases, she can refuse visitation when warranted by the circumstances, for instance, if the other parent has obviously been drinking. The custodial parent will then have the burden of proof to establish possible harm to the child, so it is a good idea to gather all relevant evidence. It is also recommended to seek the assistance of local law enforcement so that the incident is also recorded.