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How Does Supervised Parenting Time or Visitation Work?


Parenting time is the legal term of art applied to the time noncustodial parents spend with children in divorce, legal separation, and paternity actions. The phrase “parenting time” has been broadly adopted in the past generation as a replacement to “visitation,” the long-used term used to identify the time spent between noncustodial parents and children. Generally, parenting time should be regular and generous. The objective is to ensure that noncustodial parents and children develop meaningful relationships. Understanding this basic background, situations to arise when supervised parenting time or visitation becomes necessary.

A number of points warrant discussion when considering supervised parenting time. These include:

  • Overview of parenting time supervision
  • Situations that give rise to need for parenting time supervision
  • Termination of supervised parenting time
  • Suspension of parenting time

Overview of Parenting Time Supervision

When an issue arises as to whether parenting time should be supervised, a court applies a judicial standard that focuses on what is in the best interests of a child. Supervised parenting time is instituted when protecting and preserving the best interests of a child necessitates this step, a move that is considered drastic in the grand scheme of things.

When ordered, a court-designated third party is named by the court to be present when a parenting time session occurs between a noncustodial parent and a child. Depending on the specific facts and circumstances in a case, the individual designated to supervise parenting time might be a trusted family member.

In cases in which the situation giving rise to the need for supervised parenting time is more substantial or significant, a professional of some sort might be designated by the court to supervise visitation. In such a scenario, a social worker or similar professional may be called upon to serve this role.

As will be discussed in greater detail in a moment, supervised parenting time is not intended to be a state of affairs that continues indefinitely. Rather, the intended objective is that the issue that resulted in the imposition of supervised parenting time is rectified or addressed. For example, if a noncustodial parent has an issue with the abuse of mind-altering substances, sobriety and recovery is the objective in order to commence standard, unsupervised parenting time.

Situations that Give Rise to Need for Parenting Time Supervision

The specific facts and circumstances of an individual case dictate whether or not a court should order supervised parenting time. With that noted, there are a number of situations that prove to be more commonplace when supervised parenting time is instituted. These situations include, but are not limited to:

  • Noncustodial parent laboring under substance use disorder (drug abuse, drug addiction, alcoholism)
  • Noncustodial parent alleged to be verbally or emotionally abusive to or around the child
  • Noncustodial parent alleged to have perpetrated or threatened physical abuse on the child
  • Noncustodial parent alleged to have been negligent in caring for a child in his or her custody

Termination of Supervised Parenting Time

The ultimate objective is for supervised parenting time to be terminated. The goal is to return to unsupervised or “normal” parenting time in the shortest time period possible. When the underlying reason that motivated the imposition of supervised parenting time is addressed, a return to a normal state of affairs typically is the course taken.

Suspension of Parenting Time

There are instances in which the reason supervised parenting time was imposed doesn’t resolve. One of the most common of these scenarios is one in which a noncustodial parent is laboring under the abuse of or addiction to some type of mind-altering substance.

When the underlying issue that results in the institution of supervised parenting time does not resolve, a noncustodial parent can face a suspension of parenting time entirely. Suspension represents the most serious step that can be taken in regard to a noncustodial parent’s parenting time.

Suspension of parenting time may not be permanent. With that said, even supervised parenting will not be restored unless and until the reason causing suspension is suitably addressed and rectified.

Situations in which supervised parenting time becomes an issue can represent a legally challenging and emotionally intense state of affairs. As a result, when a move occurs to institute supervised parenting time, a parent involved in such a situation is wise to seek representation from an experienced, skilled child custody attorney. Call the Law Offices of Peter Van Aulen at (201)845-7400 for a consultation concerning parenting time.


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