When you get divorced, you and your spouse are able to negotiate terms regarding child custody and visitation although you'll need to seek the court's approval of any plan you devise. Once the court finalizes your divorce, all parties must adhere to an existing court order unless and until such time that the court might deem it appropriate to modify its orders.
For instance, if you have an existing court order regarding child visitation and you and your former spouse get into an argument, he or she can't suddenly demand that you have only supervised visits with your kids as a way to get back at you for the disagreement. There are circumstances that may prompt the court to order supervised visits, however, but unless ordered by the court, your former spouse must stick to the existing plan. If you understand your rights ahead of time, it can help you avoid problems.
Reasons for supervised visits
If the shoe is on the other foot and you're the custodial parent, you may have cause to request supervised visits in certain situations. No matter which side of the issue you're on, the following list can help you clarify what types of issues warrant supervised visitation agreements:
- If a licensed medical professional has diagnosed the visiting parent with mental illness
- If the court has reason to believe the visiting parent is a flight risk or planning a parental abduction
- If there is proof of emotional, physical or sexual abuse
- If the non-custodial parent goes to jail
- If the child is of an age of reason and expresses that he or she feels unsafe if left alone with the non-custodial parent
The court may also consider the type of environment, including exposure to other people, that a child experiences when visiting with a non-custodial parent. If the court believes a particular person or situation places the child's well-being at risk, it may order supervised visits to protect the child. Any parent who has a substance abuse problem may be subject to supervised visits as well.
Where to seek support
Many child visitation issues are highly complex. The good news is that you never need go it alone when addressing such matters in court. By reaching out for support from an advocate well-versed in family law, you can protect your rights, keep your children's best interests in mind and work toward a fair and agreeable outcome.