Questions Parents Ask…
What is the purpose?
The public policy of the State of California is to protect the best interest of children whose parents have a custody or visitation matter in family court.
Sometimes, based on issues of protection and safety, a judge will order that a child only have contact with a parent when a neutral third person is present during the visitation. This type of third-person visitation arrangement is often called “supervised visitation.”
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:
Types of visitation orders:
Visitation: A parent who has the children less than half of the time has visitation with the children. Generally, it helps the parents and children to have detailed visitation plans to prevent conflicts and confusion.
Supervised visitation: This is used when the children’s safety and well-being require that visits with the other parent be supervised by you, another adult, or a professional agency. Supervised visitation is sometimes also used in cases where a child and a parent need time to become more familiar with each other, like if a parent has not seen the child in a long time and they need to slowly get to know each other again.
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.
This option is used when visiting with the parent, even with supervision, would be physically or emotionally harmful to the children. In these cases, it is not in the best interest of the children for the parent to have any contact with the children.
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 are 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.
For the client: 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 by the courts, 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 we initially make contact, remember that this is all new and perhaps a little uncomfortable to you. I am experienced and will make you as comfortable as I possibly can. I will guide you through the process and do everything I 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. Monitors are not responsible for the fact that you are being asked to use the service. We are here to help and to do everything we can to make what may be to you a bad situation, as good as possible.
*This portion of information is provided courtesy of the Supervised Visitation Network.
© 2011 Judicial Council of California