Allocation of parenting time is one of the most important provisions of a child custody agreement. Supervised allocation of parenting time is better known as “supervised visitation.” What is it, and how does it work? We’ll explain when it may be necessary to involve supervision in visits.
Supervised visitation is the required presence of a third party during parenting time. In Illinois, supervision can come in one of two forms. In some cases, it may suffice for both parents to agree on a trusted friend or relative who will accompany the parent and child during visitation. In other instances, it’s not possible to come to an agreement on an available friend or relative for supervision, and the oversight may require more professional expertise. If either of these is the case, the court may appoint a supervisor of its own—traditionally a social worker or licensed therapist who will monitor the parent and child for the full duration of the visit. Depending on the situation, this visit can take place in the parent’s home or in a designated neutral location, such as a child-care facility.
Supervised visitation is a necessary condition of a custody agreement when a judge believes that a parent, while entitled to parenting time, can cause a situation that will ultimately endanger the safety of the child. This often entails a history of drug abuse, alcoholism, or domestic abuse. Mental illness, though no fault of the parent, may also be an extenuating circumstance that calls for supervision. There need not be a fear of immediate danger for a judge to order supervised visitation. If a parent has been absent in their child’s life for years, to the extent that they may have never met, immediately and abruptly entering that child’s life can be a shock to the child’s routine. This situation may necessitate professionals versed in child psychology to help smooth out the jarring transition.
The presence of a court-appointed professional can make a child feel ill at ease. It’s incumbent upon the parent with primary custody to explain that the presence of a supervisor is not a punishment and that the child has done nothing wrong. If you and your spouse can agree on a friend or relative to be the supervisor, the situation is easier to explain—the child is visiting both their father and their aunt that day, for instance. If the supervisor is a social worker, it might be useful to consider the social worker akin to a chaperone on a field trip.
Now that you understand supervised visitation, what it is, and how it works, if you feel that this is a necessary aspect of parenting time for the non-custodial parent, the firm of Schiller DuCanto & Fleck can assist you in ascertaining that your child enjoys both full parenting time and safety. Our Illinois child custody attorneys can help you secure necessary supervision for your child, whether that’s a friend, relative, or professional. Using collaborative divorce strategies, we may even be able to reach an agreement without resorting to litigation.