The court can order supervised visitation or restrict visitation if the judge believes a child's welfare will be endangered by regular visitation. The purpose of these supervised visits is to allow the child the opportunity to maintain an ongoing relationship with the other parent while in a safe setting.
This type of visitation generally takes place in the presence of a visitation monitor or someone who is responsible for overseeing the interaction between the child and the parent. This is to insure that the child remains safe during the visit and isn't subjected to any inappropriate activity or conversation.
Some instances that warrant restricted visitation are:
A judge will not only consider the "best interest of the child," but will also determine whether unstructured visitation would endanger the child's physical, mental, or moral health. A judge may require the non-custodial parent to attend parenting and anger management classes, as well as receive counseling if restricted visitation is warranted in the situation.
The following FAQs can offer more insight into the different situations you may encounter regarding restricted visitation.
Jenny's Question: I am the mother of 3 children ages 8, 5, and 1 year old. My husband was an addict and after many stints in rehab landed in prison for possession. While in prison, our divorce was granted and I was awarded Sole Custody with Reasonable Supervised Visitation for him. He has just been released early from prison and claims he wants to be fully involved in the raising of our children. With the award of reasonable visitation, can I dictate if and when he sees them? Is there any way to prevent him from seeing them until I'm sure it won't do more harm than good?
Brette's Answer: With an order like that, you have to agree for visitation to take place. If you do not agree on what is reasonable, then he can file with the court if he feels you're violating the order. Then the onus is on him to take action, and he might not do anything. You could file to modify the order, but by doing so you open a can of worms.
Mona's Question: If you have supervised visitations with one child is it required for your other child?
Brette's Answer: Usually if visitation is supervised, it is because of concerns about that parent's abilities to parent appropriately, and that would apply to all children. However, there could be a situation where there is a specific issue with one child that would lead to supervised visits with only one child. This would be very rare, however.
Aditya's Question: My 3 year old daughter was born severely premature. We divorced while she was in the hospital and since that time he has made very little effort to see her. I am open to the idea of visitation on the grounds that it is supervised either by me or a social worker. I am concerned about leaving her alone with him because he doesn't understand her medical condition and wouldn't know what to do if she were having an attack. (When she was much younger I sent her to visit him for a couple of hours and he did not give her seizure medication because he said she was "being difficult" about taking it) Can I get supervised visitation on the grounds that she has a medical condition that requires her to be supervised by someone who understands her medical condition?
Brette's Answer: If I were the law guardian in your case, I would recommend that your ex take the time to be educated about your daughter's condition. I would suggest he meet with her Doctor or at least a nurse from her Doctor's office. I would also suggest he take some parenting classes. If he did these things, it is possible he could adequately care for her. Supervised visitation, while necessary in some cases is frankly really hard to maintain. You have to coordinate so many people's schedules and it is generally not a very nurturing situation in which to develop a parent-child bond. I understand your concerns and of course it is essential that she be cared for properly, but he is her father and if you can work out a way for them to have a relationship, it will be best for her. I know how you feel - since you divorced while she was in the hospital, you feel as though you've been the only one to care for her and are the only one who knows how. You've been a tremendous mom to get her through all of that and if you allow him into her life (with some guidance) it's not going to take away any of that. Good luck.
Jolie's Question: What are your thoughts on this situation? My ex left almost a year ago to live with another woman, who was pregnant at the time with his child. We agreed that he would not expose our child to this woman and that I would have sole legal custody of our son. Things have become pretty contentious with him seeking custody now, which was motivated by his desire not to pay child support. My son was diagnosed with a delayed receptive/expressive conversation which means he needs special attention. I would like supervised visits until his father builds rapport with him and understands how he must communicate with him. I think that any exposure to a new woman, a new baby, and a new environment too soon would have a negative impact on my son without properly transitioning.
Brette's Answer: I think that your ex does need to learn how to best communicate with and parent your son. I'm not sure supervised visits are necessary to achieve that though. If he is honestly willing to learn, he could meet with your child's therapist and medical providers to learn about the condition. I'm unclear if your ex has had visitation all along. If he has not seen your child in a year, then you would need to start gradually and supervised would make sense in the beginning, but it has to be phased out. However if he has an ongoing relationship, then I think he just needs to learn proper care.
The new baby is another issue. I would urge you to think about it this way. This is your child's sibling. I understand that you have a lot of negative feelings towards the mother - but that has to do with your relationship with your ex. Your child deserves to have a healthy relationship with his half-brother or half-sister. I think you want your child involved with this sibling from the beginning - it is much more organic that way than to try to introduce him to the sibling in the future. And yes, managing a newborn and your child with special needs will be a challenge for your ex, but that does not mean he should not be allowed to try. I would suggest you get your child's therapist involved in this to help everyone transition. Good luck.
Rachael's Question: We're getting ready to go through a divorce and he wants three days a week visitation. The problem is that he is schizophrenic. He has had a past with breaking and entering, stealing, not taking his medication, and in and out of psychiatric hospitals. My child has not been without her mother in 8 months. I don't mind if he sees her, but I would just want it to be supervised. Please I need help!
Brette's Answer: Get an attorney if you can. You need to file for sole legal custody with supervised visitation. You'll need lots of evidence about his condition.
Question: What can be done in court if the dad refuses to complete a court ordered psychological evaluation? He started the testing and it came back inconclusive, and they needed him to do more testing but he refused. Can the judge grant supervised visits for dad until he completes the testing?
Brette's Answer: If he does not complete the testing as ordered, he is in violation of the court order and can be held in contempt. The court could stop visitation until he complies and there are other penalties that can be imposed.
Nikki: I recently found out my ex is using drugs, and I'm not sure how many either. He left one of his "tools" out at his home on a coffee table that still had the drug in it. I have a seven month old and the fact that she could have gotten a hold of it kills me. How can I have him have restricted visits? We have visitation set up right now as reasonable and seasonable.
Brette's Answer: You need proof. Someone else or who can corroborate your testimony on this, or something like a photograph to prove it. If he denies it, it's your word against his.
Lindsay's Question: My ex inflicted harm on my daughter (not his) when we were dating and he would watch her. A CPS case was opened, but it was recently closed as unfounded. We also have an 18 month old daughter together and are in the middle of a custody battle. I am really afraid for our child's safety when she is alone with him, and he just moved in with a new girlfriend who has seen our daughter once. He was ordered supervised visitation until our next court date, but has yet to try to see her. He doesn't even call to see how she is doing. Based on everything, will the courts give him supervised visitation now that the CPS case is closed?
Brette's Answer: It is unlikely unless you can prove some of the allegations. Good luck.
Megan's Question: My ex-husband's wife has been threatening me for years, calling and leaving messages on my phone. I have filed several police reports and she left me alone for about 2 years. Recently, she started calling, texting, and emailing again. Is there anything that can be done to stop her? I constantly worry about my son when he is over there for visitation. Is there any way their visitation can be supervised?
Brette's Answer: You can request a restraining order against her. As for visitation, if she is treating your son well, there isn't much to be done unless you can show this is impacting him.
Flo's Question: My husband has anger issues and physically attacked me twice while I was holding our baby. He had court ordered anger management a few years ago for resisting arrest and assaulting police during a domestic violence call. In speaking with his family members they attest he has misdirected anger, hate and rage and shouldn't be alone with the baby. He starts and stops therapy, is not forthcoming with therapists, and experiments with his Prozac. Can I ask the courts for supervised visitation to ensure our child is safe in his presence because he's unpredictable and it doesn't take much to send him over the edge? I will tell the judge all of that, but I'm concerned about his mental state at this time.
Brette's Answer: You shouldn't do anything without a temporary order so that everything is in black and white. You can ask the court to order him to attend counseling or anger management. You can request supervised visitation.
Cindy: I was granted custody of my nieces. The maternal grandmother was ordered supervised visits by the court with mutual agreement between both of us. Am I in violation if I told the grandparents time the children are free for visits? Do I have to provide transportation for those visits?
Brette's Answer: It depends on how your order is written. If visitation is specifically set for certain times (such as every other Sunday, for example), you need to make the children available on those dates, unless the grandmother agrees to change. If your order simply says "visits at times as mutually agreed" then you are required only to set visitation at times you both agree. Now, if you make it very difficult or almost impossible for the grandmother to arrange visitation, then you are not upholding the meaning or spirit of the order. If however, you are trying to work it out, but simply have times the children are not available, you're not being unreasonable.
As to transportation, this might be spelled out in your order. If it isn't, you can ask that the order be modified to spell it out. I would caution you however - do you really want your nieces being transported by someone who is under supervised visitation? Is the supervisor willing to do the transportation?
Jamie's Question: My child's father has full sole physical custody. After mediation I was told I have supervised visitations, but still have not seen my daughter. It is rare when I get to speak to her and he won't let me know anything about her. I'm a good mother and want to see my child. What is needed for me to be able to see my daughter?
Brette's Answer: Have you tried to set up supervised visits? Does the order specify who is to supervise? If you need to find a supervisor, work on that. Does the order say when the visits are to take place? If so and he is refusing to allow them, you can file for a violation/enforcement. If it does not specifically say and when they are to take place, it might be a good idea to go to court to get that specifically ordered so there can be no confusion.
Stacie's Question: I have mandated supervised visits with my kids this weekend to be conducted at my ex-husbands' mother-in-laws' house. Is he or his new wife allowed to be there while I am visiting my kids?
Brette's Answer: The other parent should not be present during visitation. If his MIL is the supervisor, she is the only one who should be present.
Heather's Question: If he does not register for the supervised visits by the date give on the court order, does it revoke his visitation all-together?
Brette's Answer: It doesn't revoke his parental rights but if the order has a specific date he must register by and he misses it he would need to ask the court's permission to register late or set a new deadline. He wouldn't be able to have visitation until he follows the steps set out by the court.
Nicole's Question: When we settled custody issues, he was only allowed supervised visitation (due to drug and abuse issues), which he has never done. Now he keeps telling me that he is going to sue me because he hasn't seen her. Can I file for him to lose his rights?
Brette's Answer: If he hasn't asked to see her, you have not violated the order. It was up to him to use his visitation. If he's never attempted to see her, he has no ground to stand on. If you file to eliminate his rights, it's likely you will end up with a big fight on your hands.
Jen's Question: I am the supervisor of the supervised visits for my friend's 2 children. The father has not shown up for the visits for the last 3 months. How long do we need to continue to show up for the visits before his non-showing is considered abandonment?
Brette's Answer: That certainly seems long enough to me! Your friend needs to make sure it has been documented carefully however.
Crystal's Question: Can I ask that my husband undergo therapy in order to see my child? He has a lot of anger and rage, and I am scared to leave my son alone with him. We are not divorced yet, so visitation has not yet been determined. My husband has never even kept him by himself before, so would those things weigh on the decisions involved in visitation?
Brette's Answer: Requiring a parent to undergo counseling as well as parenting classes is often ordered by a court. It's likely the court would require a psychological evaluation be done to determine what his condition is and what he needs. None of this will happen just on your say so though. You need an expert to testify as to what is going on and how it affects your child. Also, it's unlikely there would be no visitation at all in the meantime, but supervised visitation is the alternative. The fact that your husband has never cared for your son alone is very important and will be an important factor considered by the court. Get an attorney and share all of this with him or her.
Sarah's Question: My ex is on restricted visitation due to drug and alcohol issues. The court ordered his therapist to test him weekly for drugs, marijuana, and alcohol. The therapist doesn't do all 3 tests every week, and hasn't done an ETG for 2 months because he says it is a financial burden and my ex should stay sober out of fear he "could be" tested for all three. Would trying to find the therapist in contempt of court would do any good? I'm afraid the therapist may get the court order changed rather than being held accountable.
Brette's Answer: The court has no jurisdiction over the therapist, only over your ex. Your ex can be held in contempt for not complying with the order.
Tracy's Question: I recently split with my husband because he was mentally and physically abusive the entire relationship and is an alcoholic (drinks every night until passing out). My 4 year old daughter goes every other weekend to visit. She came home talking about how her dad gets in the bathtub with her naked to give her a bath. I try and correct her and explain adults should not be in a bath with a child, but she is telling me it's ok because my daddy loves me. Is this reason for me to push for supervised visitation only?
Brette's Answer: If I were you, I would be concerned. I would particularly be concerned about the drinking - however you did nothing about that and agreed to visitation every other weekend. It's going to be harder to prove since you are not around him often enough to give a lot of evidence. The bathing does sound inappropriate, but inappropriate does not mean abuse. It is a fine line. You could try to talk with him about it first - explain she is getting older and it is no longer appropriate. That might be the best way to approach this. There is no reason to make it adversarial if a simple conversation could take care of it. If not, then you can go to court. I don't think you can get supervised visitation just because of this. Likely, the court would direct him to stop and visitation would continue, unless you have some good proof that he is drunk when she is with him.
Mikaela Asks: I'm going through a very difficult divorce and child custody dispute. My husband was ordered to have SUPERVISED visits with the children while he undergoes a forensic psychological evaluation. He was also abusive with me and the children during our marriage. The psychological evaluation determined him to have psychopathic deviate behaviors and also bipolar disorder. My husband also admitted to the psychologist that he stopped taking his bipolar disorder prescribed medications and stopped seeing his therapist.
Given the history of abuse and the psychological evaluation I am adamant that supervised visitation continue until the kids are 18. I am hoping that our custody mediator and the judge will evaluate the psychological report and the one year of supervised visits to determine that it's best for the children that they live with me and their contact with dad should be supervised. From your legal experience, can you give me some insight as to how this is going to unfold for my children?
Brette: I'm sorry to hear about your difficult situation. The key is going to be working out a plan for supervised visits. Do you trust a relative of his to do it? If so, that would be the easiest situation. I should point out that should he get treatment and take his meds, it is likely a court would eventually allow him unsupervised visits. For now though he does not sound well enough.
Emily's Question: I fear for my child's safety in the care of his father. Besides having intervention order documents stating incidents where he was violent towards me, a report from a psychologist from 12 months ago stating my fears for my safety and my son's development, I also have an itinerary he downloaded on my computer showing that he used a stolen credit card number to pay for his flight. Due to him being able to get free flights with stolen credit card numbers from a fellow Nigerian, I fear he will kidnap our son. Are these documents enough to justify to the court why my son is not safe in his father's care and why supervised visits are the only option?
Brette's Answer: It is certainly a concern that he is engaging in criminal activity - and if you pointed that out to the court, you can be sure the DA would be involved and a criminal conviction would definitely cause the court to be concerned. However domestic violence with you and alleged theft do not have to equal parental kidnapping. Did the psychologist have any concerns about your son's safety- you only mention YOUR concerns. What matters is what the psychologist thought. You need to put together clear evidence about the care your son receives, the impact it has on him, and any actual threats about kidnapping. Good luck.
Question: My ex is schizophrenic, but I didn't find out until 3 months after my child was born. He became verbal and emotionally abusive and isolated me from my friends and family. I finally left him, but I continued supervised visitation by myself with him because I didn't want him to say that I was denying visitation. I still have to deal with the verbal & emotional abuse. What should I do to stop this madness?
Brette's Answer: Having visitation in your home is not a good idea. His behavior is not appropriate. There are some options to consider. You could continue supervised visitation but find someone else to do it or even use a service. He needs to find an appropriate supervisor you agree to. There are some programs, such as through the Salvation Army, that run supervised visitation programs, but they are hard to find and often full.
You definitely need an order of sole custody. You could ask the court to have a psychological evaluation done to determine what kind of visitation and in what amount would be appropriate for him and your child. I think you probably need to bring some professionals in to help you with this. Taking yourself out of the equation will allow you to get away from the abuse.
Alisha's Question: My ex is supposed to get the kids every other weekend with supervision with the kid's grandfather. Well the grandfather only takes the kids when he wants them. Can I get in trouble since the parent plan says he is supposed to get them every other weekend and doesn't?
My court papers it says I have primary care but we both have the rights to get the kids medical and educational records. What does this mean? Also, the kid's grandfather has asked for a copy of the kid's social security cards. Does he have any rights to them?
Brette's Answer: First of all, you can't force him to exercise his visitation. If visitation has been ordered to be supervised and there is no supervisor, the visits can't take place. And if the supervisor is the one disturbing the schedule, it is not your fault.
It sounds like you have joint legal custody. I can't see why the grandfather would need the SS# number and if you aren't court ordered to provide it, you don't need to. Is he trying to claim them as dependents for taxes maybe? Or perhaps he is trying to seek custody (in some states you need to include that number on the petition).
Lacey's Question: My ex was awarded supervised visitation at his mother's house from Friday to Sunday. She is also providing the transportation for them to get there. If he isn't with his mom to pick up my daughter, do I still have to let her leave?
Brette's Answer: No. Supervised means supervised the whole time.
Misti's Question: My ex-husband has court-ordered supervised visits because of his multiple drug and alcohol problems. His parents were asked to supervise the visits since he is living with them. Most recently my son came home and told me that he witnessed a drug transaction at their home that involved his father. When I confronted his parents on this issue they completely disregarded the drug deal and told my son he was wrong for saying anything. I don't think my son is safe if they don't recognize there is a problem.
Brette's Answer: You need to get another supervisor. Go back to court if necessary. For your husband to commit a crime in front of your son during visitation while supervised is a red flag.
Stephanie's Question: What can happen if the person appointed to supervise visitations with children does not follow court orders? For example, the sister is appointed to supervise visits with brother's children when he has them, but she doesn't do so and the order states supervised visits until children are 18.
Brette's Answer: If a visit is supervised then the supervisor must always be present. If not, then you need a new supervisor.
Cassandra's Question: How hard is it to change the supervisor of supervised visitations?
Brette's Answer: If the person is included in your court order, you need to go to court to modify the order. If no one is named and you simply must agree, then you can change it together if you agree.
Jeannie's Question: There was sexual misconduct by my 7 year old daughter's biological father and he now has supervised visits. Shouldn't the monitor be a female?
Brette's Answer: As long as it is a neutral monitor who is present during the visits, the sex of the person should not matter. Unless you're suggesting your child needs a female in the room to feel safe? If so, that is something you would need a therapist to testify about.
Sara's Question: My son's father gets supervised visitation and the Supervisor keeps submitting reports saying he behaves appropriately on the visits and she doesn't feel further supervision is necessary. He is a drug user, is involved with illegal activities, was abusive to me and neglected our son putting him in dangerous situations while we were together. He hasn't gone to a domestic abuse program, therapy or taken parenting classes? How do I get the Judge not to understand that the reports aren't indicative of our son's safety?
Brette's Answer: You could ask for a parenting or mental health evaluation. Ultimately though, it's up to the judge to make the call.
Stephanie Asks: I have custody of my daughter and her father has supervised visitation with her every other weekend. We are to have a home evaluation done. Will he have normal unsupervised visits after he completes this home evaluation or will it still be supervised visits? I would appreciate any help and or advice you can give me.
Brette Answers: It depends on what your order says or if you are going back to court. If the order says unsupervised visits begin with a home evaluation with acceptable results, then that's the plan. If not, nothing changes until the judge says so.
Julie's Question: My ex has supervised visitation with my son, but the current monitor does nothing to stop him from discussing the court case, and my child is extremely upset. I have no funds for a professional monitor and my ex doesn't work so if a professional is ordered I have to pay. Can you give me suggestions on where I can find affordable monitoring? My ex made threats against my friends and family so that is out.
Brette's Answer: The Salvation Army runs a supervised visitation program in some locales. You might also try calling your local United Way offices or perhaps your Department of Social Services or Department of Children and Families to see if there is anything else in your area. If not, I would suggest talking to the monitor about what is appropriate. Perhaps there is a friend or family member who would agree to monitor the visitation.
Jessie's Question: I am getting ready to file for divorce and want to ask for sole custody and supervised visitation for my 4 year old son. I would even ask the court to be the supervisor so my ex doesn't have to hire one. Is this possible?
Brette's Answer: The court does not offer supervision. You have to either agree on a supervisor or pay for a program that offers supervision. Often a relative is the best answer.
Stacey's Question: My sister and her ex have been divorced over a decade. He's brought up allegations and is fighting for custody. In this process the judge ordered supervised visitation with ME supervising. NO one asked me! I have no guidance on this. I have my own family, child and work schedule. I don't know if I am in contempt if I don't comply. This is setting up my sister for failure because it's impossible for me to put aside my family needs for my niece school, sports etc. This has already affected my work, and turned my world upside down. Can they do this without my permission?
Brette's Answer: You are not required to provide supervision. Generally the supervisor is asked if he or she is able and willing before an order is issued. You should have been asked first. If you can't do it, they have to go back to court to agree on someone else.
Question: I have a question concerning my sister and the father of her child. He currently has supervised visitations with the supervisor being our mother. Recently he started calling my mother and harassing her she wants to put a restraining order on him but she wants to know how will it go with the supervised visitations and if will she get in trouble.
Brette's Answer: She is under no obligation to be the supervisor if she does not want to. A restraining order would mean he could not come into contact with her, which would effectively end the supervised visits.
Question: If the children involved have expressed disinterest in going for visitation to their monitor for court-ordered supervised visitation, what action should take place?
Brette's Answer: It's not up to the monitor to decide if visitation happens. The monitor's sole responsibility is to provide supervision. Children don't get to decide if they go on visitation. They are minors and must do what their parents say (older teens are an exception). Any problem with visitation is up to the parents to resolve.
Dee's Question: My ex is an absent father who tried to forcibly remove our child (now 5 years old) from my brother's home when he found out that I was deployed. After the mental drama was over, my daughter was returned to her uncle by direction of the DA. My ex and I are now battling over child custody and I have a pendente lite order that is scary. It states that he has 4 supervised visits and then he gets the child on the first Saturday of each month for 4 months. After that, there are no limitations and he gets her every other weekend using the standard visitation schedule. She is now vividly afraid of her father and has been diagnosed with PTSD, anxiety and depression as a result of the removal. The judge did not hear anything that myself, PhD psychologist that has been counseling the child for 12 months, or my brother who witnessed the removal event had to say. Do I have any options to slowing down this timeline within the order?
Brette's Answer: Monitor what happens during supervised visits. Keep the therapist involved and seek modification if things do not improve. Make sure the therapist can document the adverse reactions. What might make sense is to aim for just a slower timeline.
Melissa's Question: My brother in law is supposed to have supervised visits, due to him being arrested on domestic violence. Charges were not pressed, however, CPS made a home visit and requires 30 days of supervised visits with his children. He and his wife have decided that they aren't going to follow these rules, and he is always alone with the children. Are they at risk of losing the kids? Or since they agree, do the CPS restrictions no longer apply?
Brette's Answer: The children could be removed from both of them if they do not follow the order. It is not optional.
Jeanna's Question: I divorced about 7 years ago when my kids were 4, 6, and 11. Since he was drinking and on drugs at that time, the divorce papers state he must have supervised visitation. Now he says he's quit his bad habits and become a new man. If we agree on a different visitation arrangement, is that breaking the law or doing something that could harm me in the future if he goes back to his old ways?
Brette's Answer: If you both agree, you are free to work out a schedule you both agree to. I think you should be very careful and go back to court with your new arrangement as a stipulation and have it entered into the record so that there can be no ambiguity. I do recommend that you have language in there that specifically states he is not to drink or take drugs while with the children. You might also consider asking for regular drug testing if there is any question in your mind or as a prerequisite to changing the agreement. You could also ask that he get drug and alcohol counseling because just because he says he's clean does not mean he is.
Amber's Question: My ex spouse was given supervised visitation (he was abusive to our daughter when she was only 2 weeks old). It doesn't state that I have to allow weekly phone calls. He abandoned us 7 months ago and now wants to call weekly. Do I have to allow the phone calls?
Brette's Answer: If the order does not specify it, you do not.
Shelley's Question: 3 years ago my ex-husband asked if he could just have phone visitation with our two daughters, maintaining the right to revisit his supervised visitation rights after his probation for domestic violence was up. At this time the girls counselor and reunification therapist recommended supervised visitation due to a lack of boundaries on his part and other concerns. During a recent scheduled phone visit, my ex-husband told our 12 year old he was in our area and would like her to sneak out and visit him at the park next to our house. I record his phone calls and listened to this one after she asked me to. She was audibly scared and uncomfortable and tried to change the subject, but he kept bringing the topic up. She does not want visits without supervision and is still scared of him. She is in counseling for this. I have been afraid for my life and know he is capable of just about anything.
Brette: You can go back to court and ask to have his phone visits suspended. I agree with you that this is not appropriate and is not helpful for your child. » Go to top of page
S's Question: Can the father take pictures with the child during supervised visits?
Brette's Answer: Unless the order says it is not permitted, yes. If they are inappropriate, you would ask the court to impose a restriction.