When parents separate or divorce, a priority for many is making sure they see their children on a regular basis. Frequent parent/child contact is essential for a healthy relationship and the child’s overall development. Consequently, securing sufficient visitation, often called parenting time, is of particular importance to the parent that does not have primary custody. Florida law favors awarding parenting responsibility to both parties equally, but parenting time can quickly become a hotly-disputed issue if a party claims the other parent poses a risk to the child’s safety or health. The best interests of the child is always the pivotal concern and driving factor behind custody and visitation decisions, and evidence of domestic violence, child abuse, child neglect, child abandonment or sexual violence is likely to result in limited, if not a denial of, visitation with the child. One mechanism courts use when they want to allow some contact between a parent, but need to ensure the environment is safe, is to impose supervised visitation. A recent news story out of Pasco County illustrates another situation that could persuade a court to restrict visitation. An Amber Alert was issued when a father embroiled in a custody dispute drove up and snatched his two-year-old away from the mother. The man took this action after emergency efforts to see his son via court order were denied. A discussion of how supervised visitation works will follow below.
The Purpose of Supervised Visitation and Basic Setup
As noted above, supervised visitation is designed to give a parent viewed as posing a risk to the child and/or the other parent an opportunity to exercise some degree of visitation with his/her child. It also offers the child the important benefit having two parents in his/her life. In addition, this structure is used if there is a concern about possible parental kidnapping, and to prevent improper interaction between the parent and child. This kind of visitation involves conducting the interaction between the parent and child at a neutral site and in the presence of a visit monitor who is tasked with ensuring the contact remains safe for the child.
Typically, parents are ordered into these programs in connection with divorce/child custody proceedings, domestic violence cases and criminal cases. While in-person supervised visitation is an integral component of these programs, other types of monitoring are also possible, including:
- monitored parental exchanges of the child;
- telephone monitoring; and
- therapeutic monitoring.
The monitor is present first and foremost to protect the child, but also to perform the following duties:
- keep the nature and content of the visits confidential and remain neutral;
- check that all instructions from the court are followed;
- pass on information between the custodial and non-custodial parent related to the child’s welfare;
- keep records of observations from every visit;
- provide instruction and feedback to the parties when necessary; and
- suspend or end a session if the safety of all participants cannot be guaranteed.
In order to fulfill this role, visit monitors receive specialized training on how to respond, recognize and control interactions that involve families dealing with domestic violence, child maltreatment and post-traumatic stress disorders.
Talk to a Family Law Attorney
There are few issues more important than seeing your child, and if you have questions or concerns about visitation or custody issues, talk to a family law attorney about your rights. The Tampa Bay law firm All Family Law Group, P.A. focuses on family law matters, and can assist you with obtaining the best possible resolution in your case. Contact the Tampa divorce attorneys and family lawyers at All Family Law Group, P.A. in Tampa Bay at 813-816-2232 for a consultation at no charge or email us.
by Lynette Silon-Laguna Google+