Disputes over custody following a divorce generally end with the best possible outcome for the child or children involved, even if that doesn’t always mean both parents get their way. This often means joint legal or physical custody, but in more extreme cases, it could mean sole custody. Even in sole custody cases, most U.S. states have a law that requires court-ordered parenting plans to set a minimum amount of parenting time, whether that’s supervised or unsupervised.
Unless the court finds that shared custody or visitation will cause harm to the children involved, parents are allowed to maintain meaningful contact with their children for the benefit of both parties. In cases where a parent’s behavior raises concerns over a child’s safety or well-being, restricted or supervised visitation may be the most appropriate course of action.
Courts may implement restricted visitation rights based on the following:
Abandonment: If the parent left their child and never returned, a judge may limit potential visitations in the case of their return.
Abduction: If there is a strong possibility that the non-custodial parent will abduct their children, the judge may require supervision. Examples include if that parent repeatedly threatened to abduct their children, or if they have taken their children out of state or out of the country for long periods of time without permission.
Child’s Request: This can vary from state to state. Courts can consider the child’s preference in terms of custody and visitation rights. Some states, like Colorado, do not have a set age limit for when the child’s opinion will be considered; rather, the court will weigh the child’s wishes against the extent of their ability to express independent and reasoned preferences.
Domestic Violence: If the non-custodial parent has a history of threatening or abusive behavior, the judge can restrict their visitation rights. Except in cases of extreme abuse, courts will grant some form of visitation rights to an abusive parent.
Drug or Alcohol Abuse: If the non-custodial parent has substance abuse issues that have caused impaired driving, mistreatment, abusive language, etc., the judge may require supervision.
Emotional Harm: If spending time with the non-custodial parent causes emotional distress for the children, the judge may restrict visitation rights. Some examples include bed wetting, stuttering, and poor school performance.
Mental Illness: While mental illnesses don’t automatically make a parent unfit for visitation, the judge may place restrictions on them if the parent’s condition could result in behavior that may cause their children harm.
There are several ways the courts can implement supervised visitation, including:
Third-Party Supervision: If the custodial parent is unable or unwilling to monitor the visitation times, a friend, relative, or qualified third party may be required to be present.
Telephone or Video Monitoring: The judge may require that some form of virtual monitoring, whether it’s through a phone call, videoconferencing, or via some other means be used during visitation times.
Therapeutic Supervision: The judge may require visitation from the non-custodial parent be limited to parent-child therapy sessions conducted by a certified mental health professional.
If you have other questions regarding supervised visitation or divorce in general, check out The Harris Law Firm’s Family Law Resources page. If you have a question that needs to be answered by a legal professional, contact us today through our form, or give us a phone call at (303) 622-5502 today.