Child visitation refers to arrangements where a parent is legally allowed to spend time with their child or children. This generally happens in the context of a split child custody arrangement. In such an arrangement, one of the parents will usually have majority custody of the child. This means that the child lives with that parent (the “custodial parent”) for the majority of the time.
In turn, the other parent with less custody rights (the “non-custodial parent”) is then granted specific time periods when they can visit with the child. For instance, a common arrangement is where the non-custodial parent is allowed to have custody of the child on the weekends, or on every other weekend. Thus, the time spent with the non-custodial parent happens according to what is called a “visitation schedule.”
The visitation schedule may be set according to various factors, including:
- The basic custody arrangement between the child and the parents;
- The nature of the relationship between the child and the parents;
- Whether the child has any specific or special needs;
- The parent’s location and availability; and
- Various other factors.
All child custody and visitation arrangements are made according to the “child’s best interest” standard”. This means that the needs of the child are prioritized over any preferences of either parent.
There are many different types of child custody and child visitation. One of these is called “supervised visitation.” Supervised visitation may be obtained and arranged when a non-custodial parent spends time with her child while a third party observes. The visitation usually happens at a set place and time. It may occur in a public area such as a park or other similar area.
The third party will usually be a designated adult. The designated third party can be:
- The custodial parent;
- A neutral third party such as a neighbor, friend, child care provider, grandparent, or other trustworthy adult;
- A supervised visitation professional, who is a professional that only monitors parent-child visitation situations; or
- A mental health professional.
The selection of the third party must usually be approved by the court. This will ensure that the child is exposed to a favorable and safe situation during the supervised visitation sessions.
Child visitation may be supervised for many different reasons. For instance, the non-custodial parent may have a prior history of domestic violence or sexual abuse with the child. Other reasons for setting up a supervised child visitation arrangement can include:
- An alcohol or drug abuse problem;
- Anger or abuse management problems;
- The parent has spent long periods of time away from the child, and the child is no longer accustomed to their presence;
- The non-custodial parent has never spent time with the child;
- There is a possible abduction or parental kidnapping threat.
Thus, supervised child visitation is usually required or necessitated in situations where there may be some threat, danger of harm, or other issues regarding the parent and the child. However, supervised visitation still allows the parent to have contact with the child.
As such, supervised visitation is usually not recommended in instances where the child will certainly be exposed to harm or danger, or where the risk of something happening is very high.
The exact process of requesting a non-custodial parent supervised visits will depend on the state where the parents live. This is because each state has different laws that cover child custody and child visitation matters.
Typically, however, regardless of state law differences, child custody arrangements are established in one of two ways:
- Agreement Between Parents: Both parents can usually negotiate an agreement out of court to have one parent visit the child while being supervised. Once the agreement is made, it is sent to a family court judge for approval so that it becomes legally enforceable;
- Court Order: One parent can petition the family court to order or modify a child custody agreement. To petition the court means to ask a judge to grant a visitation arrangement.
- Petitioning the court may happened after attempts to negotiate child custody agreements end or are not possible for any reason. A hearing is then scheduled for a judge to hear both sides of the case.
This depends on the specific factors of the parent’s case. The court can usually modify a child visitation status to unsupervised visitation after a petition is filed. This can happen for instance if there are changes in circumstances regarding the child or either parent.
Also, both parents can agree to the change or modification. In some states, the change can be made without court approval, so long as there is no risk of harm or danger to the child.
Generally speaking, however, it is always better to have any changes to child custody or child visitation arrangements approved by the court. That way, both parents can avoid violations, and the new order can be approved so that it becomes legally enforceable.
Child custody and child visitation are fluid arrangements that can be subject to change. It is recommended that you contact a child visitation lawyer in your area about your rights and how you should proceed. Your attorney can assist in dealing with the other parent and in dealing with the court for approvals and hearings.