Written by Jonathan Breeden
When parents divorce, generally, one parent has primary physical custody but shares a regular visitation schedule (parenting time) with the other. This standard arrangement allows children to have one-on-one time and a stable relationship with each parent without the other present.
In some situations, the non-custodial parent does not enjoy typical visitation privileges. This article will explore supervised visitation in North Carolina and when it may be appropriate.
Supervised visitation is court-ordered parenting time. It recognizes the need to foster a relationship between the parent and child, but supervised visitation manages any potential issues.
Under supervised visitation, the non-custodial parent can only visit their child when supervised by another adult. The visit may occur at the custodial parent’s home, a park, a recreation center, or a designated facility.
While the custodial parent may request supervised visits, only a judge can order them. Therefore, there must be evidence to support supervised visitation.
Based on this evidence, a judge may determine that a parent is not fit for custody but wishes to support the parent-child relationship in a safe environment.
Several situations apply that would necessitate supervised visits.
A parent who has been abusive or has difficulty controlling their anger is a threat to the child. It is in the child’s best interest not to be left alone with an angry and abusive parent.
Children require constant care and supervision. Leaving a young child in the care of a drunk or high parent is dangerous.
A parent with untreated psychosis, schizophrenia, or other mental health issues should not be left alone with a minor child.
The controlled nature of supervised visits allows for parent-child bonding without the fear of neglect or abandonment.
A parent with previous questionable encounters of a sexual nature would likely qualify for supervised visitation.
A court may order supervised visitation for a parent who is not necessarily a threat but must improve their parenting skills and judgment around minor children.
Suppose more than one child is involved in a custody dispute requiring a supervised visitation order. In that case, the ruling applies to all minor children. An individual deemed unfit for custody and unsupervised visitation would be unsafe for one child, let alone several children.
Supervisors must be known and approved by the court. But generally, judges request that the supervising adult is not the custodial parent.
A qualified supervisor could be another family member, friend, social worker, or mental health therapist. Supervised parenting time in a designated facility has a paid attendant who oversees the visit.
A judge may be reluctant to put both parents in the same place as their children, mainly if there is evidence of domestic violence.
The approved supervisor must be able to always see and hear the child. They may not leave the designated area without bringing the child with them. They must be ready to enforce the court’s requirements and not give in to their personal feelings or opinions.
First, the primary custodial parent must have sole custody. They’ll need to demonstrate to the court why supervised visitation is required. The non-custodial parent has the opportunity to offer evidence of their safety and stability.
The parent seeking supervised visitation files a petition to modify the child custody agreement. If the court agrees, they rule in favor of the parent seeking the order.
The custodial parent must comply once a judge creates a supervised visitation schedule. There are exceptions, such as the child being ill. Still, the custodial parent must make every effort to follow the judge’s orders.
If the non-custodial parent fails to appear, the court may rescind their visits. Non-custodial parents who try to harm or abduct their children (or demonstrate similar behavior) could face criminal charges.
Supervised visitation orders may be indefinite or temporary, with intentions of improved performance or behavior. Either parent may petition the court to modify the agreement if there are significant improvements or changes in circumstances.
The court may order a stair-step approach in response to the parent’s improved mental, physical, and behavioral health. This approach might begin with unsupervised visits in the same location but without a supervising adult within eyesight or earshot. Gradually, the non-custodial parent may earn the right to keep their children for several hours at a time or overnight.
Supervised overnight visits are possible. However, many judges prefer to wait until the non-custodial parent proves themselves able to care for their children independently.
Supervised custody orders might include a series of required steps that culminate in unsupervised visitation. The non-custodial parent is often required to show evidence of changed behavior such as:
The non-custodial parent shows proof of completion in a state-ordered or voluntary drug treatment program. This proof might include a written evaluation by a licensed professional and periodic blood or urine tests as further evidence of sobriety.
A non-custodial parent can demonstrate a willingness and eligibility for unsupervised visits by completing parenting classes.
The court may ask for a positive evaluation by a licensed mental health provider to confirm that the parent is on appropriate medication and actively involved in their recovery.
A parent who understands that uncontrolled anger is a barrier to full parental rights can show proof of modified behavior.
A child custody lawyer understands the complexity of North Carolina’s many laws and requirements – especially the nebulous supervised visitation arraignments. They can help you navigate this landscape and protect your rights. In our experience, most family court judges want children to enjoy a healthy relationship with both parents. Our legal team assists you in achieving this.
To speak with a skilled and compassionate North Carolina family attorney, contact Breeden Law Office today at (919) 230-2154.