"What are 'Monitored Visits' in Custody Cases?"

Child Custody Quarrel. Parents trying to influence their children when they divorce in order to get their favor

     Going through a divorce or a separation is difficult enough, but when children are involved, this adds another level of complication and can be a source of conflict between partners. In certain situations monitored visitations might be ordered by a judge due to behaviors of high conflict individuals. High conflict individuals are parents that attempt to resolve conflict by using abusive language, physical aggression, coercion, and recurrent litigation. Some examples of high conflict issues include domestic violence, child abuse and neglect, mental illness, sexual abuse, or substance abuse. If a judge or parent feels that their child’s well-being is in danger when in the other parent’s care then supervision might be ordered.

     The courts will describe the acceptable parameters of the monitored visits which can look different in each case. Supervised visits can take place in monitored facilities that include video tape, a therapist’s office, monitored visitation, establishments that mimic the look of a home, or even outdoor parks with a supervisor present. Guidelines for the amount of time spent with children, frequency of visits, where exchanges can take place, who can supervise, and how to document supervision can be included to reduce conflict.  Many times monitored visits will prohibit the supervised parent from engaging in substance use within 12 hours of a visit.

     Parenting classes can be mandated for parents to better learn skills to co-parent while custody battles continue. Classes could cover a wide range of basic skills such as how to maintain the child’s safety and health and understanding their emotional needs. Co-parenting classes might include a group setting where both parents participate in learning how to raise an emotionally and mentally healthy child by not letting their conflict get in the way of parenting of the child. Parents may also be ordered to participate in their own individual therapy to process through the adjustment of co-parenting and scheduling monitored visits. Communication can be ordered to be conducted solely in writing and only via telephone in cases of emergency to reduce negative parent interactions.

     Important considerations when monitored visitation has been ordered: Communicating with the child in an appropriate way about the matter will better help them understand what is going on. Conveying the message that a parent is dangerous will have an effect on the supervised parent’s relationship with the child.  Children’s experiences and memories with the supervised parents are altered and some express “visitation jail” which leads to a decrease in desire to want to visit that parent. Lastly, there might be an incentive for the supervised parent to retaliate with more legal action which could contribute to loss of custody in severe cases.

     For parents who are ordered supervised visits, it is important to enroll in parenting classes and individual therapy. This is a good way to learn the parenting skills that are needed to be an effective parent. Engaging in personal therapy will help process the feelings associated with being ordered to monitored visits.