When a court enters a parenting time schedule for a non-custodial parent, the presumption is that the parenting time will be unsupervised. Under certain circumstances, the court will order that the parenting time be supervised. The most usual reasons are a fear of potential for violence or abuse against the children, or to monitor the parenting time after a long gap since the non-custodial parent and the children saw each other. Supervised visitation is artificial and constraining. However, this supervised time can be used to your advantage.
Supervised visitation means that someone is present during all of your parenting time with your children. This gives to an opportunity to have someone testify to your good parenting skills, your bond with the children, your not being a danger to the children, and even to what you and the children say during parenting time. This can be used to establish your credibility in court, and to diminish your ex’s.
The first thing is to be 15 to 20 minutes early for every visit. This not only allows you to spend the maximum amount of time with your children, but it demonstrates to the court that you have made the children a priority in your life. If you have transportation issues, resolve them well in advance of the scheduled visitation.
Second, and just as important, is to actually attend every visit. There are times when it is impossible to attend a visitation. However, missing too many cannot look good. One priority for you is to establish that your children are your first priority. The best way to demonstrate this is to attend every visitation.
Use the supervised visitation to correct any bad behaviors of yours that the Court was concerned about. For example, if the court felt that your alcohol use was a concern, then show up sober for every visit. If you are prescribed medication, make sure you tell the supervisor. If the judge was concerned about your temper, then don’t get angry with the kids, with the supervisor, or with your ex.
If you have the ability to select or propose supervisors, recommend your family members or close friends. Also, try to have a pool of supervisors appointed, as opposed to one or two. This will allow you to have the greatest possibility of not having your visitation being cancelled because the supervisor is not available.
Don’t discuss problems that you and your ex are having, with either your ex or your supervisor, during the parenting time. The parenting time is to be spent with your children. It is very difficult to convince a judge that some topic was so important that you had to take your very limited time with the children to discuss it with the supervisor. Plus, the supervisor is not a mediator and has no authority to order you or your ex to do anything. So spend all the time with your children.
Use the time to demonstrate good parenting skills, especially the ability to mediate arguments and disagreements with or between your children. If this is a difficult area for you, or if you need some help, take a parenting class prior to or during the period of supervised visitation.
Finally, use the time to demonstrate strong emotional bonds with your children. Be interested in what they talk about or play with. Don’t get angry if they say they enjoy time with mom’s new husband or boyfriend (you can redirect the conversation back to you). Always tell them you love them and that you look forward to the next parenting time.
Supervisors are appointed not only to make sure that the parenting time periods go well, but also to report to the court. Judges don’t necessarily want to hear about the quality of the supervised parenting time. But having a supervisor testify about the strong relationship you have with your children and the terrific parenting skills you consistently demonstrate can go a long way toward counter-acting accusations from your ex.