Tag Archive for 'child visitation'

When Supervised Child Visitation Is Needed

A non-custodial parent, in all but the most extreme cases, has a right to visit his or her biological children. Usually, a visitation schedule is agreed upon by the parents, and enforced by the family law court. If the parents cannot come to an agreement, a court might impose some type of arrangement upon them, to ensure that the non-custodial parent has at least some access to their children. Generally, the visitation is unsupervised.

However, there are some reasons, very few of them pleasant, why a court might grant visitation on the condition that the visiting parent consent to supervision by a neutral third party.

These reasons include past physical abuse or threats of violence against the child or the other parent, incarceration of the visiting parent (obviously, a prison is no place for an unsupervised child), mental illness of the visiting parent, or a showing of a strong probability that the parent might attempt to abduct the child.

Courts might also order supervised visitation based on the sexual behavior of the visiting parent. While a consensual sexual relationship between the parent and another adult is usually not a problem, if the parent is unmarried and cohabitating with a boyfriend or girlfriend, a court might order supervised visitation if it deems that this would be in the child’s best interests. Courts are split as to whether or not a homosexual relationship on the part of the parent is a bar to unsupervised visitation.

supervised visitationWhile most parents would presumably prefer unsupervised visitation, if the situation warrants supervised visitation, it can have some benefits. For example, in the vast majority of cases, it is generally seen as better for the child, on balance, to have both parents involved in their lives than not. At the same time, if the parent has shown him or herself to be a risk to the child’s safety, completely unsupervised visitation may be unacceptable. In such cases, supervised visitation is the only viable compromise.

Furthermore, if the visiting parent really loves his or her children (and, whatever their past indiscretions, most of them do), supervised visitation could be beneficial. The presence of the supervisor could serve to remind them of why they’re in this situation in the first place, and their children can be an extremely strong incentive to stay on the straight and narrow.

On the other hand, there may be some costs involved. Obviously, somebody has to pay for the presence of a supervisor (they don’t work for free), whether it’s the parents or the taxpayers. Furthermore, it’s possible that only being allowed near one of their parents with a stranger present might confuse the children, necessitating some very uncomfortable conversations. On balance, however, it’s a good thing that supervised visitation is one of many options that parents have.

According to LegalMatch case data from the last several months, only about 10% of non-custodial parents are in supervised visitation arrangements. This is probably a good thing, showing that the majority of parents, whatever their marital problems, are still fit to visit their children and have unfettered access to them during the scheduled visitation period.

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Child Custody Battles In My Own Backyard

child custody disputeIn my opinion (IMO, to you all people who can’t pry yourself away from the interwebz) a person goes through a number of stages in their life: childhood, adolescence, young adult, middle-aged, then old dude or dudette.  That’s generally how most people see life, too.  But within these stages, there are a bunch of sub-stages that occur, most interestingly between young adult to middle-aged.  I’m in an odd/interesting/sad stage right now.  I’m right around the age where everyone is starting to get married, but also I’m getting closer to the age where I’m starting to know people who are getting divorced.  It’s weird – whatever happened to the stage where we’d all play around in the sandbox and make mudpies?  Oh, childhood, why did we have to leave you?

Anyway… recently, I ran into an old friend, Joey, from high school and we ended up talking about his life since I last saw him.  Joey was a pretty popular kid when we were in school together.  Despite the fact that our school didn’t have very strong sports teams, Joey was a star-player on our school’s basketball team nonetheless, which is why he was also popular among a lot of the female students.  And in our senior year, Joey hooked up with Deborah, a shy, yet nice girl from our school.  Everyone thought they were the cutest couple and that they were headed to good successful places.  So when Joey told me that he was getting divorced, I was shocked.  Even more surprising was when he told me how things between he and Deborah had soured to the point where they were no longer talking and that he was locked in a bitter custody battle with her.

I was shocked, even more shocked than when I discovered the drying power of ShamWow!

Joey wanted to have primary custody of the children.  He told me how other divorced guys he knew all either lost complete custody of their children or were limited only to visitations rights.  Joey didn’t want to keep Deborah from seeing their children.  In fact, he wanted her to be a very active part in their lives.  But what he didn’t want was to become like all the other divorced dads he knew.  He didn’t want to be limited to only visiting his children because he was worried that it’d make his children distant.  He wanted to know what his options were.

Well, I didn’t know what to tell him since anyone in or heading toward a career in lawyering knows that the answer to every legal question is that “it all depends.”  Laws can be ambiguous and outcomes vary all the time and are dependent on a number of things as facts can always be distinguished to appear different from other cases tried before it.

Generally, in California and most states, courts usually award custody to the primary caregiver, meaning the person who spends the most time with the child.  Usually that translates to the person who doesn’t hold paid employment and raises the child, but when both parents work, like in Joey’s case, it comes down to fitness and a calculation of time spent with the child.

Joey isn’t alone in his predicament.  A vast majority of family law cases received by LegalMatch are about child custody battles.

The best advice I could give to my friend was to seek the counsel of a qualified family law lawyer.  Because regardless of the legal situation, case outcomes are not always predictable.