Parenting time is an important aspect of an overall custodial arrangement in a divorce, paternity, and even some adoption cases. The general rule is that parenting time is not supervised by a third party. In some limited instances, parenting time is ordered by the court. There are several factors to be considered regarding the matter of supervised parenting time.
Essential Facts About Parenting Time
Within the past 25 years, a shift occurred from referring to time spent between a noncustodial parent and a child as “visitation.” In most jurisdictions in the United States, this is now called “parenting time.” The alteration in terminology was undertaken to underscore that a noncustodial parent is not to be deemed a mere visitor in the life of his or her child. Rather, a noncustodial parent and a minor child need to be provided suitable opportunities to develop a meaningful relationship with one another.
Because of the purpose behind parenting time, a noncustodial parent should be able to have regular and recurring parenting time with a child or children. As a general rule, a noncustodial parent should enjoy parenting time with a child in an uninterrupted manner without outside interference. There are certain limited exceptions to the enjoyment of parenting time without outside interference, which is the topic of discussion in this article.
What is Supervised Parenting Time?
In many ways, the term “supervised parenting time” speaks for itself. When a noncustodial parent spends time with his or her child, the session is supervised. With that said, some important factors need to be borne in mind regarding supervised parenting time.
First, a judge must order supervised parenting time. A custodial parent cannot, of his or her own volition, demand that a noncustodial parent’s parenting time be supervised. If a custodial parent believes that the need for supervised parenting time exists, that individual must seek an order from the court.
Second, a judge will not order supervised visitation in a cavalier manner. There must exist a serious underlying reason for a court to implement supervised parenting time.
Third, the focus of a consideration of whether or not supervised parenting time should be implemented is the judicial standard of what is in the best interests of a child. Matters regarding child custody and parenting time in all U.S. states are determined utilizing the best interests of a child standard. Supervised parenting time is appropriate if the physical, mental, emotional health, and overall wellbeing of a child requires supervision.
Fourth, supervised parenting time is not intended to be permanent. When ordering parenting time, a judge sets milestones that need to be met by the noncustodial parent. Provided these milestones are satisfied, the movement from supervised to unsupervised or “normal” parenting time occurs.
Reasons for Supervised Parenting Time
As stated previously, supervised parenting time is not something that is blithely ordered by the court. There truly must be a serious underlying reason for a court to order supervised parenting time. These include:
- Allegations of physical, emotional, or mental abuse perpetrated on the child by the noncustodial parent
- Threats of physical violence enunciated by the noncustodial parent
- Physical violence perpetrated by the noncustodial parent on someone else in the presence of the child.
- Active substance use disorder on the part of the noncustodial parent
- Intoxication in the presence of the noncustodial parent in the presence of the child
- Negative remarks made about the custodial parent by the noncustodial parent in the presence of the child
- Noncustodial parent demonstrated to be incapable of properly caring for the needs of the child during parenting time for other substantial reasons
As an aside, these potential underlying causes for the imposition of supervised parenting time can and do provide a basis for change of custody orders as well. In addition, in a paternity case, supervised parenting time may be ordered by a court if a father has yet to have regular contact with a child, which is the case in some cases of this nature.
In summary, imposing supervision on a noncustodial parent’s parenting time is something of a last resort for a court. The objective is for supervision to not only protect the interests and wellbeing of the child but to put the noncustodial parent on a corrective pathway that results in a return to the establishment of a normal course of unsupervised parenting time.
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