Your parental rights and those of your spouse do not end just because you divorce or separate. Not only will each of you likely continue to have the duty to support your child financially, but you also will both have the right to spend time with your child. Such visitation and parental involvement are key for your child’s welfare and development.

You and your child’s other parent may enjoy unsupervised visitation with your child. Unsupervised visitation simply means that you do not have to have a third party present with you while exercising your parenting time. Any people present with you and your child during your parenting time are there because you want them to be present.

However, while unsupervised visitation is the norm, it is not the only form of visitation a court may order. Sometimes, a court may order supervised visitation.

4 Reasons Why a Court Would Order Supervised Visitation

When it comes to your child in a divorce or child custody hearing, all of the orders the court enters are made with your child’s best interests in mind. 

This means that, instead of unsupervised visitation, there are times a court may conclude that supervised visits are best for your child. When your parenting time is supervised, a third party designated by the court must be present. This third party is meant to ensure your child’s safety and may be required to report information about the visits to the court.

Four common circumstances can cause a court to order supervised visitation:

1. You and the Other Parent Agree to Supervised Visitation

If you and your child’s other parent agree to a visitation plan that includes supervised visitation, a court will likely adopt the plan and order supervised visitation. This is because most courts give significant deference to arrangements parents make concerning their children and their children’s welfare. 

As long as there is a factual reason for the supervised visits and it does not appear that one party is taking advantage of the other, a court is likely to adopt the plan and order supervised visits.

2. The Parent Has Been Absent for a Prolonged Period

If the other parent abandoned the child or has been absent from the child’s life for a significant amount of time, a court may order that parent to have only supervised visits with the child. 

Such an order is often made as a preventive measure until the parent, child, and court feel comfortable that an appropriate parent-child relationship is forming. 

The supervising third party can alert the court if concerns arise during these visits. This can help the court give the other parent and your child resources and assistance to foster a better relationship. Conversely, concerns may lead a court to suspend the other parent’s visitation rights completely until the circumstances improve.

3. There Are Concerns of Abuse or Neglect by the Parent

Suppose that there are credible allegations that the other parent has abused or neglected your child in the past. In that case, courts will routinely require a period of supervised visitation before considering moving that parent to unsupervised visitation. 

The length of time that supervised visitation will be necessary will depend on how serious the allegations are, along with the age and vulnerability of your child. Often, the parent must not only accept supervised visitation, but must also complete parenting classes or other therapy as a condition for moving to unsupervised visitation.

4. The Other Parent’s Home Environment May Have Safety Issues

Even if the other parent did not actively abuse or neglect your child, a court might still order supervised visits if the court has reason to believe your child’s safety might be in danger when at the other parent’s home. Supervised visits might be appropriate when the other parent:

  • Has a history of drug use or excessive alcohol consumption
  • Is dating or cohabitating with others who might be dangerous for your child
  • Has other children in the home who might abuse your child
  • Does not keep a clean home or one that is safe for your child’s age and development

Depending on the seriousness of the allegations, the court may enter other orders in addition to supervised visitation. 

For example, the court may prohibit certain individuals in the other parent’s home from being around your child during visits with the other parent. Similarly, the court may order a home visit as part of a custody or visitation assessment.

Contact a Maryland Family Lawyer for Guidance

If you have legitimate concerns about your child’s welfare when they are with the other parent, then a supervised visitation order might be appropriate. Conversely, if you are under a supervised visitation order, understanding why the court made the order is key to having the order lifted.

No matter what side of the matter you are on, Blattner Family Law Group can help you make your case to the court. Contact us to discuss your child custody needs today.