When you have children, you never expect to be told by a stranger when, where, and for how long you are entitled to spend time with them. Unfortunately, when divorce and custody enter the picture, you lose some control over your life for a time and suddenly you see your child on a schedule.
Supervised visitation can sometimes play an important role in the child custody and visitation process. A court may feel that it is in the child’s best interests to have a third party present during parenting time when the parent-child relationship needs to be established or restored, and the child needs time to comfortably adjust. If allegations of physical or psychological abuse were made, there could be a court order resulting in supervised visitation out of caution for the child’s safety and well-being.
Regardless of the reason visitation must be supervised, the primary focus is to protect your child from coming to any harm. If you are under supervision, you might feel that you are being “punished,” and presumed guilty of wrongdoing against your child, but this is not necessarily the case. Accusations have turned out to be false, so a better way to view supervision is as an opportunity, with a witness present, to show that you care about contributing to your child’s health and happiness.
What does the supervisor do?
There are minimal qualifications for being a supervisor, so choose wisely. Typically, parenting time can be supervised by anyone to whom the parents agree as long as the court deems them to be suitable. If you and your co-parent can’t agree on a supervisor, the Court may appoint one. Keep in mind that a supervisor does not have any authority to amend any part of an order by the court, so follow all provisions that have been established to ensure that you maximize your parenting time.
Prior to your first visit, your supervisor will need to review the court order establishing supervised visitation to understand what parameters have been set. This will help facilitate a successful visit by ensuring that you do not engage in behavior that will distress your child, and cause the visit to be terminated. The goal is to build the parent-child relationship, and deter conduct that will hinder strengthening that bond.
Safety for all
While it may feel like you have a babysitter in your midst, someone who agrees to supervise is taking on a large responsibility. He or she has to act as an enforcer to restrict inappropriate interactions while blending into the background so as not to interfere with your visit. For instance, a parent accused of abuse may be required to limit physical contact with his or her child. Violating this rule could cause the visit to be terminated to avoid causing your child to feel uneasy.
Supervision has traditionally taken place at someone’s home, or a child-appropriate venue such as a park or zoo. In light of events like the Powell case in Washington State, new methods for providing supervision have started evolving. Instead of holding parenting time in unpredictable locations, supervised visitation centers have started springing up.
Supervised visitation centers have the ability to provide a more controlled environment. Supervisors can check bags and belongings before a parent or child enters the building, catching any items that are inappropriate or dangerous. Adding video cameras to the premises to prove or disprove an allegation is an invaluable safety mechanism for both parties, and the child. Centers are even equipped with games and activities to make the most of your time with your child. It is an all-around more secure system that is gaining in popularity.
Tips to make the most of your parenting time
- You should never initiate or entertain conversations with your child that would allow him or her to believe the current visitation and custody arrangements will change. That decision is left to the court and the goal is for your child to feel happy and safe by trusting both parents. Allowing your child to believe that his or her visitation and custody arrangements are only temporary may cause irreparable harm, and is not in his or her best interests.
- Focus on being a good parent to your child, rather than any negativity that led you to the current situation. The important thing is that you are spending time together.
- Remember, any conflict is harmful to your child. Keep the visit light and fun, creating positive experiences with him or her.
- Do not quiz your child about the other parent’s private life, activities, or relationships. You really want to focus your time on your relationship with your son or daughter.
- Do not make your child a messenger to the other parent. This pulls your child into your conflict, which is unhealthy for him or her.
- Do not make promises to your child about future gifts, trips, visits, or changes in custody. If you cannot follow through, it may cause a lack of trust and unnecessary hurt.
- Say brief, but positive good-byes at the end of your visit. You want your child to leave feeling good about the time he or she spent with you, rather than returning to the other parent distraught.
- Understand that your love, patience and commitment will pay off and help you to have a better relationship with your child in the future.
Every parent wants what is best for his or her child, but in a custody or visitation dispute, parents obviously disagree on what exactly “best” is. If you believe you need some assistance in handling a custody or visitation dispute, you need a compassionate attorney who will work with you in an effort to maximize your parenting time and help you to advance the best interests of your child. To speak with us about reserving a consultation, Miller Upshaw Family Law, PLLC would like to invite you to reserve a consultation with our Nashville child custody attorneys by calling our office at 615-391-4200, or by reaching out to us through our contact page to get the assistance you need.