Questions Parents Ask
What is Supervised Visitation
Supervised Visitation refers to contact between a non-custodial parent and one or more children in the presence of a third person responsible for observing and seeking to ensure the safety of those involved. "Monitored Visitation", "Supervised Child Access", and "Supervised Child Contact" are other terms with the same meaning.
What is Supervised Exchange?
Supervised Exchanges, sometimes referred to as "Monitored Exchanges" or "Supervised/Monitored Transfers", is supervision of the transfer of the child from one parent to the other. Supervision is limited to the exchange or transfer only with the remainder of the parent/child contact remaining unsupervised. Most frequently precautions are taken to assure that the two parents or other individuals exchanging the child do not come into contact with one another.
What is the purpose?
Both Supervised Visits and Supervised Exchanges are designed to assure that a child can have safe contact with an absent parent without having to be put in the middle of the parents' conflicts or other problems. It is the child's need that is paramount in making any decisions regarding the need for such supervision. However, there are also some significant benefits to parents. It is our hope that no one will look upon supervised visitation or exchange as a negative or stigmatized service. It is a tool that can help families as they go through difficult and/or transitional times. Some of the benefits for the various family members are as follows:
For the children:
- It allows the children to maintain a relationship with both of their parents, something that is generally found to be an important factor in the positive adjustment to family dissolution.
- It allows them to anticipate the visits without stress of worrying about what is going to happen and to enjoy them in a safe, comfortable environment without having to be put in the middle of their parents' conflict and/or other problems.
For the custodial parents:
- You do not have to communicate or have contact with a person with whom you are in conflict or by whom you might be frightened or intimidated. The arrangements can be made by a neutral party (the visit supervisor) and there does not have to be contact before, during, or after the visits.
- You can relax and feel comfortable allowing your child to have contact with the other parent-and can get some valuable time to yourself.
For the non-custodial parents:
- You can be sure that your contact with your children does not have to be interrupted regardless of any personal or interpersonal problems you may be having.
- If allegations have been made against you, which is often the case when supervision is ordered, you can visit without fear of any new accusations because there is someone present who can verify what happened during your time together. When using a professional service, you can also be assured that the supervisors are neutral and objective.
Supervision in the case of parental separation:
When parents separate, the children most often will have primary residence with one parent and regularly spend time with the other. Visitation, contact, and access are words used to refer to post separation contact with the non-residential parent or another significant person, such as a grandparent, sibling, or other relative. When the courts feel it is appropriate, they may order that such visitation take place in the presence of a third party.
Supervised exchanges may be court ordered or arranged by the parent and are generally appropriate when there is no question about the safety of the child but when one or both parents do not feel safe or comfortable interacting directly with the other. It is always better for the child to not be put into a situation where he/she is exposed to the anger and conflict of the parents.
Supervision in the case of out-of-home placement:
When a child comes under the jurisdiction of child protective services and is removed from the home because of a risk of child abuse or neglect, it is usually important that the parent/child relationship continue. Child Protective Services generally provide these services. However, they may have limited resources that restrict the frequency, duration, and nature of the contact. In some areas, they have found it useful to contract with outside supervised visitation programs to provide services.
Since supervision in the case of out-of-home placement is generally controlled very closely by the state or local CPS regulations, the information here applies primarily to supervision in the case of parental separation.
Why not use a friend or relative rather than a professional service, particularly when there is a fee involved?
Often there is nothing to prohibit you from using a "non-professional" relative, friend, or acquaintance. Many court orders will allow that as an option providing both parents can agree on who to use. That often does not work out for the following reasons:
First and foremost is the difficulty in finding someone on whom you both agree. If you are having sufficient conflict that supervision was deemed necessary, then chances are very slim you will be able to find an individual that both of you will trust and feel comfortable with. Secondly, it puts a real strain on friendships. Many well-meaning friends and relatives will agree to provide the service but will quickly tire of the regular commitment and/or being in the middle of your conflicts. It is difficult for friends and relatives to restrain from taking sides. Once neutrality is lost, then the credibility of the "supervisor" will come into question and much of the feeling of security and safety will be gone. And, finally, it may actually detract from the quality of the parent/child time together. It is often tempting to spend time interacting with the acquaintance rather than focusing on the child. Children may then come to resent the visits because they feel that they are secondary and not primary in the interaction.
How do I find a provider?
If you have a court order for visitation, chances are the local courts will have a list of providers in your area. Your attorney may be able to advise you about services. Check the SVN Directory of Service Providers to see if there is one in your area.
How do I make sure the service will meet my needs?
Be sure to check the court order to see if it specifies the kind of supervision. Then check with the provider to see that all conditions can be met. Due to the limited resources available in most communities for such services, you will probably have to be flexible. Some services are open for limited times, particularly in smaller communities. Remember, this is about your children-and their needs. It may require some sacrifices on your part. Parenting is not always convenient, and we need to be sure that we do not let minor inconveniences interfere with our child's right to have time and attention from both parents. If you are the non-custodial parent, your unwillingness to arrange your schedule to fit the times available through the service may be interpreted as a lack of interest on our part, which can lead to termination of parental contact. If you are the custodial parent, your inflexibility may be seen as an effort to keep the child from the parent. This has been known to result in reversal of custody. You will probably not have any difficulty, if you can truly think about it from your child's point of view instead of your own.
When you contact the service, remember that this is all new and perhaps a little uncomfortable to you. They are experienced and comfortable. They will guide you through the process and do everything they can to assure that your child's needs are met. Try not to displace your anger against the other parent, the system, or the unfairness of the situation onto them. They are not responsible for the fact that you are being asked to use the service. They are there to help and to do everything they can to make what may be to you a bad situation, as good for everything as possible.
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