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Supervised Visitation Guidelines

Supervised child visitation can present unique challenges for both the parents and children involved in the process. Both the custodial and noncustodial parent have responsibilities that they must meet in order to ensure that they comply with the terms of court ordered visitation. Navigating the process of monitored child visitation can be an experience that is stressful at times.

Gaining a greater understanding of what monitored visitation is, why it is necessary in some cases, and what the actual process is for supervised visitation can be helpful for a number of reasons. First, a greater understanding of supervised visitation and what is expected of you in the process can help alleviate some of the stress involved. In addition, knowledge of the underlying reasons behind supervised visitation and gaining insight into the role of the supervised visitation provider can answer some of the more common questions regarding this process.

What is Supervised Visitation?

Supervised child visitation is a court ordered process whereby a noncustodial parent must visit with their child or children under the direct supervision of a neutral third-party individual. Often, but not always, this individual is professionally trained. In some cases, the individual monitoring the supervised visitation will undergo a training process to ensure that he or she understands the applicable supervised visitation guidelines in their state or area. The specific parameters for the monitored child visitation will be outlined by the court when the orders are made. This includes whether the visitation provider is professional or non-professional, where the visits are to take place, and other details. These orders are binding, and both parents must adhere to the supervised visitation requirements set forth by the court.

Supervised child visitation is used to make sure that a child is safe both physically and emotionally during a visit with a noncustodial parent. In situations in which supervised visitation orders include a mandate for the use of a professional provider, the visit also gives the provider an opportunity to observe the interactions between the parent and child.

Why is Supervised Visitation Ordered?

The central concern when the court orders supervised visitation is to ensure the safety of the child or children, the parents, and the visitation provider. Supervised visitation is used in difficult situations where there is cause for concern for the safety of the child or one or more of the parents. Although supervised child visitation itself can be a very difficult situation for both children and parents, it is used to allow parents to maintain contact with their children even in challenging circumstances.

There are a number of reasons that supervised visitation may be ordered by the court. These can include situations where there have been allegations or a history of domestic violence or child abuse. Situation in which substance abuse is suspected may also result in an order for supervised visitation. Likewise, if the court feels that there is a danger of one parent abducting a child, supervised visitation may be ordered.

In addition to domestic violence, substance abuse, or the risk of abduction, a court may order the use of supervised visitation in circumstances where a child has never had a relationship with a parent. These visits may be used as a means of reintroducing the parent and child after a long absence. This is sometimes the case after one parent has been incarcerated for a period of time. Situations in which a parent suffers from mental illness can also result in an order for supervised visitation. Ultimately, a judge makes a determination as to whether supervised visitation is necessary given the unique situation of the child and parent or parents in the case.

How Supervised Visitation Works

Once supervised child visitation has been ordered by a judge, it is up to both parents to comply with the order. The court order will provide the requirements that must be met by both parents. This includes the type of provider that can be utilized during supervised visitation, such as a professional, paraprofessional, or nonprofessional provider. The court order will also outline conditions for the supervised visitation, including locations, dates, times, and any other restrictions or details that may be deemed necessary. Understanding the terms of a court order is of paramount importance for both the parents and the supervised visitation monitor.

During supervised visitation, the visitation provider is required to be present during all interactions between the parent and child. If at any point the provider feels that the visit should be ended or cut short, he or she will have the power to take this action. This may occur if the child becomes visibly upset, or there is an interaction between the parent and child that is outside of the boundaries provided by the court. The provider may be required to document any interactions and present this documentation in court. Because of the important role that the provider plays during a supervised visit, it is important for parents to conduct careful research when providing input related to or in choosing a supervised child visitation provider.

Considerations for Choosing a Provider

Once the court makes orders for supervised visitation, sometimes it will be left to the parent or parents to choose a visitation provider to conduct the monitoring. The parent or parents must exercise caution and perform due diligence when selecting a provider.

To understand the requirements for becoming a supervised visitation provider, it is helpful to examine California Rules governing supervised visitation providers. Supervised visitation providers in California must adhere to Rule 5.20, found in the California Rules of Court. Supervised visitation providers must also adhere to the provisions founds in California Family Code Section 3200-3204. Unless otherwise noted by the court, a nonprofessional provider must also meet the requirements set forth in Rule 5.20. Professional visitation providers must meet more stringent standards and must complete a 24 hour training course.

Whether a provider is a professional or paraprofessional, the parent involved will need to find a provider that suits the family’s specific needs as outlined by the court. This may include a provider with the availability and background necessary to help in the specific case. It is also important to keep in mind that the parent or parents may be required to pay for the supervised visitation services. This can be a deciding factor in choosing which provider to choose. There is a wide range of costs for professional supervised visitation providers, which usually include both intake and hourly fees.

Some professional supervised visitation providers require an initial intake interview. The intake interview is an important way for parents to get to know a prospective provider, to see if the qualifications are adequate, and to see if his or her temperament and availability meet the needs of the specific situation. The intake interview is not the only time that parents should be assessing a prospective provider’s qualifications. Even prior to the intake, parents should make their best effort to verify the credentials of the individual professional provider, or the provider organization. Since there is no mandated certification process in California aside from a 24-hour training program for professional providers, it is up to parents themselves to ensure that the stated qualifications of a provider match reality.

Closing Thoughts

Supervised child visitation can be a difficult situation for all of the parties involved. Supervised visitation is used by the court as a method of ensuring the children’s safety, as well as that of parents and the supervised visitation provider. Although supervised child visitation is often used in situations where there has been a history or allegations of domestic violence or substance abuse, there are a number of other situations where supervised child visitation may be mandated by the court.

As with any court order, it is important to carefully read your supervised child visitation requirements and make sure that you understand and comply with them. Remember, although monitored child visitation may not seem fair, it is used to ensure the safety of a child while still recognizing the importance of frequent and continuing contact with both parents. While the court order will outline the requirements for supervised visitation, including what type of provider may be used and the location and times of the visit, it is ultimately up to the parent to find the right provider that will meet the family’s needs. Understanding your responsibilities as a parent or provider are crucial to ensure that supervised visitation goes smoothly. If you have any questions about supervised child visitation, be sure to contact an experienced family law attorney at Bremer Whyte Brown & O’Meara, LLP.