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 supervised visitation to 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.
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 family relationships and 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.
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. We offer nonintrusive supervised visitation within our office, utilizing a room with a one-way mirror. Depending upon the case, we can provide supervised visitation within home and community settings (e.g., the park, mall, etc).
THERAPEUTIC VISITATION is similar to Supervised Visitation, except that the professional third party is a licensed clinician who can provide therapeutic intervention during the visits as well as use their experience and expertise to further assist the reunification process. Goals of Therapeutic Visitation can include: the healing of past trauma, the communication of feelings, the improvement of the parent’s response to the needs of the children, and the development of appropriate parenting skills. Visits can range from taking on a therapeutic focus to a monitored interactive time between the parent and the children. For example, the therapist can provide feedback to the parent about ways to effectively respond to an anxious child, recommend strategies for behavior management, or initiate games that build parent-child attachment. We offer nonintrusive supervised visitation within our office, utilizing a room with a one-way mirror. Depending upon the case, we can provide supervised visitation within home and community settings (e.g., the park, mall, etc.).
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/Therapeutic 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:
- These monitored visits allow 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 can often occur 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.
To learn more information about the Supervised Visitation Network, including “A Parent’s Guide to Making Child-Focused Visitation Decisions”, visit their website: http://www.svnetwork.net/
This information was adapted with permission by the Supervised Visitation Network and is copyrighted. All rights reserved ©2014 Supervised Visitation Network.