What are the justifications for long-term supervised visitation?

Posted Friday, May 11th, 2012 by Gregory Forman
Filed under Jurisprudence, Not South Carolina Specific, Of Interest to Family Court Litigants, Of Interest to Family Law Attorneys, Visitation

Almost two decades of family law practice has made me cautious regarding supervised visitation.  The number of parents who believe their co-parents’ visitation needs to be supervised is substantially greater than the percentage of parents whose visitation actually needs to be supervised.  Supervised visitation adds elements of tension and drama to what should be a relaxed parent-child relationship.  The message it communicates to children is “there’s something so wrong with your mommy or daddy that he or she cannot be trusted to be alone with you.”  The typical intimacy of spending time with one’s child in a homey setting doing “normal” family activities is replaced by spending time in an artificial settling doing limited activities in an unrelaxing environment.  Given that bonding with caregivers is a necessary condition for secure attachments, the family courts rightly set a high burden before requiring a parent’s visitation be supervised.

Yet there are reasons justifying short-term supervised visitation.  Such short-term supervised visitation is typically ordered when a parent has an enduring relationship with the child (or at least a relationship with the child that the court deems worthy of continued support) but that parent suffers from some temporary mental, physical or emotional condition rendering unsupervised visitation unsafe.  The goal is to use short-term supervised visitation to allow the parent-child bond to remain intact, while giving the parent time and incentive to remedy the conditions requiring supervised visitation.  Often the hope of obtaining unsupervised visitation is a useful goad towards helping that parent achieve stability.

There are even reasons justifying long-term supervised visitation.  Sometimes a parent has mental, physical or emotional conditions that cannot be remedied, yet both the parent and child benefit from the relationship.  I have represented parents with severe mental health or intellectual functioning issues that rendered them incapable of taking care of their children without assistance.  However these parents loved their children and the children loved these parents.  Allowing them time together–even if limited and in a supervised setting–was an act of mercy.

However, too often, long-term supervised visitation is used to allow a parent to wallow in dysfunction while maintaining an attenuated relationship with his or her children.  Typically these are cases in which one parent refuses proper mental health treatment or fails to gain control over substance abuse issues.  I am unclear who benefits from long-term supervised visitation in such situations.  It doesn’t really benefit the parent, who is allowed to maintain an attenuated relationship with the children without fixing his or her problem.  It doesn’t really help the child, who is repeatedly thrust into a supervised visitation setting, rasing the obvious question in the child’s mind of, “what’s so wrong about my daddy [or mommy] and why doesn’t [s]he love me enough to fix it?”  Teenagers tend to be particularly resentful of long-term supervised visitation, both because it requires them to spend time in this artificial setting when they’d rather be with their peer and because they understand why the visitation is supervised and exhibit justifiable anger at the parent who refuses to fix his or her problems.

For parents who love their children but suffer problems they are incapable of fixing, long-term supervised visitation is appropriate.  For parents who suffer problems they are capable of fixing, short-term supervised visitation is appropriate.  But what is the justification for long-term supervised visitation for parents who are capable of fixing their problems?

123 thoughts on What are the justifications for long-term supervised visitation?

  1. cassandra says:

    Attorney Greg,

    Do you by any chance know of any case citations that address/incorporates these issues in the decisions?

  2. Marina says:

    I have supervised visitation with arm guards for two years. Dad acussed me falsely of child abuse which was never proven. He got a Doctor “Romirosky” saying I refuse therapy when it was never offered to me.

    1. Joe says:

      Was this doctor from PA or Delaware

  3. Joshua says:

    I do not believe those facts or accusations. The supervised visitation is used as a weapon. If anything not taking your children to fun events will cause the other parent to have ptsd. It will make it worse and push them away.

    1. Dawn says:

      Yes, supervised visits in the current US family court context generally harms minor children, and both their parents. Yet it is extremely lucrative for the family lawyers proposing this horror chamber for the children, parents and extended families.impacted. Many family court judges, who are seething with guild, rage and other emotions, order supervised visits indefinitely. This happens even in the nation’s capital.

  4. Traci Ross says:

    Let’s just be frank and cut to the chase here…

    My husband decided that using me as his punching bag was more convenient than getting help for his mental, psychological, and emotional issues, so when he turned his “red-zone” anger on our then 4 year old daughter, I kicked him out. He filed for divorce 5 months later and terrorized me until being handed temporary sole custody by my own attorney, via stipulation. A convicted DV perpetrator now has all control over our daughter and I have supervised visits… FOR WHAT REASON? All I do know is that our daughter is permanently traumatized by the legal abuse inflicted by this court and the injustice occurring. Unless a parent is found to be UNFIT through due process of a criminal act, the rights to both parent and child should never be violated

    1. Shareina Garner says:

      So you stepped on your exes legal rights just to benefit you but when it bit back you now think the legal system should be more fair to both parents and child???!!!! If you have or had some way to back up wrong doing . Do it. Think about the harm you put on your kid and the other parent. Not just think about you you you. Hence “ME” ME”ME!”. Is this how they made it sound? Next time you are being abused in front of your kid dont stay there for 4 years or til they harm yoir kid its abuse that your kid is still being subjected to mentally.

      1. Qu Sharif says:

        Are you serious? I am in a similar situation and my daughter is terrified of her father who has in addition to abusing her for years has physically harmed many blood relatives and s/o in front of her and improperly uses a gun she thinks he will kill her and our family with because she came home after a visit and told on him. She is now seven and still very afraid to see him. He has purposely refused treatment, evaluations, to turn in his gun during his two injunction periods (and while having a warrant for five months). He comes to our home now all of a sudden unannounced in the night on non visitation days and has even harassed my grandmother in the night falsely alleging to police that he needs to pick up his daughter. There have been six cases with multiple murders of women and their children in this and surrounding counties since all this has happened to us. There are plenty of courts who would give the children away just like they did this lady for just trying to protect them. This system is not made for justice and these children and their families are suffering. Have a heart and be for real.

  5. Kelly Garcia says:

    My daughters father was court ordered after his fourth DUI to sign up for supervised visits through a state funded child advocacy program until he can pass three consecutive hair follicles and attend a couple of classes. That was two years ago and he has yet to sign up or for the classes or register for the visitations. My daughter and her father were extremely close and this has caused emotional turmoil for her. He has never provided financial support …paying 100 dollars every three months to keep him off of the Attorney Generals radar . He is very capable of paying child support, he owns a very successful business, he just choses not to pay being that he isn’t a part of her life anymore. I have tried everything I can to keep him in my daughters life, even going through the proper steps of the courts. Its been two years. What do I do now?

    1. Chelsea Rayne says:

      It’s been over 3 years and I have had less than an hour a week supervised visitation after a motion to relocate hearing where my son came out and accused his father of molesting him. The judge said “I don’t like you (me) you have 1 hour to turn your son over to his father for abusing him putting these thoughts in his head”. She refuses to recuse herself though does not practice family law anymore. She required a note from a therapist who also sided with my son and myself, then referred to it as unsolicited. I’m at a loss. I haven’t gotten to speak to my son this entire time on the court ordered calls (per father and father’s partner). And no visits since Nov 7th 2016. My son is in and out of ER /psych for attempting suicide. Any help. Please.

  6. miss j says:

    what about being forced into supervised visitation without any steps to remove supervised, without any time limits, and four years later, not allowed a court hearing to modify? what if the restriction was made from a court without jurisdiction, then the court with jurisdiction adopts the order without ever deciding whether supervision is needed, or hearing any evidence, and once again, without providing reasonable steps to remove?

    what about supervision at 4 hours a month for the last four years without a single hearing to produce evidence or expert witnesses? what about a cps juvenile court case that strikes an expert doctor that declares there is no mental illness, but the judge and the social worker both decide on their own, without any experts that there must be a mental illness, based on hearsay?

    What about an order from juvenile court that allowed hearsay evidence to be adopted in family court- without a hearing and without any expert witness at all stating there is a mental illness? what if the parent with the supervised visitation has four separate doctors, three of which they had no part in choosing, all declare there is no mental illness, but the judge has refused to allow a hearing to produce evidence in?

    1. Dawn says:

      Welcome to our corrupt, incompetent, greed and conflict-driven family courts! Family courts declared war on US children and their families quite a long time ago. Only now have parents been wired, organized and numerous enough to turn this into a massive, sweeping and grand Sparticus moment. Americans, millions of mothers and fathers are slowly but surely fighting back against the US family courts, particularly Millenials, who were targeted by family lawyers and family courts in disproportionate numbers. Over 5 million aggrieved, bankrupted and angry parents, have fought endlessly, almost helplessly, to protect their minor children, and vice versa, from cruel, pig-mouthed, sleaze-ball, child abusing, coward family lawyers, and family court judges serving their greed interests, These millions of now battle-hardened fighters, are increasingly aware of the actual identities of their extremely cruel tormentors. As they say, the burden on the slave master, is often as big as the burden on the slave.

  7. Smash Some Glass says:

    In California Supervised visits are being used as a litigation tactic and financial weapon against parents . It is rare that parents who acted normally prior to a divorce or custody battle would suddenly need to be supervised with their own children it is very embarrassing for children as well and can cause life long problems.

  8. Me Again says:

    What about a parent who fled abuse from her child’s father, only to be cornered by cps and the fathers whole network of pro-father activists. Not being able to afford an attorney in family court and being tricked by the fathers attorney into signing a temp which he then gained full custody. I have been bamboozled by the best of the best and the most justified state agency. The same protection agency who were caught lying about saying my UA’s were dirty for drugs, but nothing happened, They weren’t even slapped on the wrist and I was told I could not ask for a trial . CPS just dismissed, moved the case to family court and then wrote a pretty report in favor of the father who has an extensive drug & criminal & DV history. There was no way in hell I was going to even get a Judge to consider any facts or merits of law and Iv’e been buckled ever since. I want to be with my daughter, it’s been 4 years and I’m scared if I ask to change the plan, I’d be up against the same brick wall ,major emotional & physical abuse & control by the father,. I admit , the last four years I have felt literally paralyze. I have behaved almost child-like and behaving like a victim has not turned my life around but I know for fact, this mess would not have happened had I not took our daughter and tried to leave with her in the first place. Not having my “ducks-in-a-row” before hand. was my defeat. again There was nothing on me that was concrete from the beginning. The father is a different story as far as reputation, etc…

  9. Dawn says:

    In DC Supervised visits are used as a litigation tactic
    and financial weapon against parents, incidentally against children . It is very sad, humiliating and embarrassing for children, but very lucrative for family lawyers. In DC they have a long-standing joint custody law, and admin. orders mandating use of structured family mediation in place of adversarial methods of dispute resolution (and its attending cruelty and violence). The local judges in DC family courts are local family lawyers by statute, whose income was a direct function of inter-parent-conflict, i.e., the number of children harmed, and of the severity of emotional and financial harm to minor children and their parents. Needless to say, these judges do not comport with the letter or spirit of DC laws/admin. orders most closely and specifically defining the best interests of minor children (and their parents who are directly before the court). To little surprise, they terrorize minor children and their parents in DC, by routinely failing to treat the parents equally, and by failing to comply with DC administrative orders, and requiring issues be resolved through structured family mediation, rather than warfare, aggression, poverty and violence. Any judicial officer in any family court, whether law clerk, magistrate, associate judge, should be required to have the qualification of being one of the most skilled “neutrals” in the jurisdiction, preferably among the most highly skilled family mediators. This will protect young, vulnerable children from family litigation industry torturers, abusers and famly preds!

  10. Tommy Vogt says:

    We Have DSS making monthly visits to our home now for 3 months and seem to think they will continue to do so way into the forseeable future.
    My wife and zi had an altercation Aig10, 2019, where pushing and shoving were involved. Because Our children were home, in their rooms the State decides that that is reason enough to harrass our family continuously for months. After we both seeing accusations of CpS & dss being 8nv9lved in child trafficking over the past few years. My wife is stressed every month. Yes, we allowed ourselves to argue to intensely. Are we divorcing or separating? No. I am in the three trees counseling program for 26 weeks, which helps me to understand better ways to communicate in my marriage. Our marriage is stronger than ever. Yet dss feels they somehow can continue to harras and view our family through a microscope monthly… hoping to find something. We are normal upper middle class, church going family, with well behaved children in a great school system. How do we stop these ridiculous visits. Dss has ignored what the Solicitors office allowed me to do, which was return home for my family. Stating they have nothing to do with that case, yet insert themselves mo.thly into our lives. Frustrated.

  11. Debbie Miller says:

    We are grandparents who had my daughter at age 15 stay with us after her first baby and the father for almost a yr, then 2 yrs later she had another baby and the father of that one lived with us for almost 2 yrs. Then she had a third one and the father of that one lived with us for 2 yrs. Well this past yr she & he had afight in our home and he was charged with assault * battery on her, his 4yr old and her 8 yr. old. In Jan of this yr. all children were removed from our home & plced in 2 different homes and we can’t see them,speake to them or have any gifts accepted from us to them by the other people. Do you have a suggestion what we should or could do. We have supervisied visitation at the discretion of the other people.

  12. OC CA hell on earth says:

    My ex attended 5 appts
    Or less when our child got out of 116 day stay at the NIU when we’re in the Nicu he did visit every day for an hour or so which I carefully planned our child’s entire schedule around that to make sure his father could be a part of his care when we got home from the Nicu, his father didn’t like the attention the baby got so he started to get jealous, and he started to get mean which made me even less likely to want to cater to him. As time went on, there was more issues and I continue to say that maybe we should split before it got too bad we should take some time to figure it out spend some time apart always stating I never wanted to take his son away from him or his family that would always be important. My family lived on the other coast. It was during Covid. We didn’t get to see my family at all or any of my friends that I’ve known for 20-30 years. he started to do things to set me up. Once when I was sleeping, he put our son in the bed and our son rolled out of the bed. I FaceTime him he came home and screamed at me and left. Then he came back while it was breast pumping, and he took our kid in my car without leaving other keys to go to the hospital. Even after I talk to a nurse and our son was fine. Trust me he was going to get medical care, but the nurse said there was no reason of subject him to the ER that actually because of Covid, it sounded like that would be the biggest of risks. Either way. His father is always putting him in harms way just for a chance to make me look bad these kind of situations happened again and again, and the third time I finally that was sure of it no matter what anybody else told me I knew he was trying to kick me out of our home and make me homeless and then take her child for me all the way to punish me, he made many comments throughout our time together, though that what a wonderful mother, I was house, best suited to make all the medical decisions because I know best you know he wouldn’t even make decisions with me. He left the whole burden on me, which I didn’t want I wanted to share in those decisions and I wanted some of them to be fun when it came to food and whatever anyways down the line he takes me to a therapist that’s $250 a session when we both have insurance that can co-pay 35. I’m thinking we could use that extra money for a babysitter and I can go to the gym and then you don’t have to keep telling me how fat I am , yeah It was ugly like that . So time goes on he stages a DV incident. I didn’t realize when he came from work because injuries, but I guess he had some injuries when he came home from work he called the police and said that I did them even the police knew he was full of it because they left me at home with my child and sent him off, I flood and did not leave the state. I actually called the police department. They said it was OK there so many I can’t even imagine where to begin but that’s how it started now I’m on supervised visitation and it’s so expensive and I’m still homeless I’ll probably never get my kid back , he’s pulled with the police. He says I’m on drugs he managed to get my toxic family to sign papers that said I was going to kill myself in the baby. Crazy crazy crazy shit we’ve had two child custody investigations. None of them have any actual evidence against me all the evidence points I’m a fat mother, being that when they ran the car reports a child abuse registry with the medical people and all the things CPS whatever there’s like a lot of things , that did the check all the things and the place from the false allegation like all the things there’s never been anything that says that I did anything wrong except for him and his supporters no outside party no nonbiased party. My psychiatrist said I was totally with it totally capable of parenting, no suicidal ideation, or homicidal at all , the judge ignored it and said she wanted to talk to my therapist which my therapist said that it was out of the scope of practice and the only reason I was psychiatrist is because of my ADHD, and the reason I had a therapist was because of the emergency assistance I received and being homeless they wouldn’t let me get a job. It was required that I do the family stabilization thing instead of the work ready program in the hospital with Marissa, just the same time as all these investigations for the suicide, I was never in court defend myself. They made all the crucial decisions when I was out there they gave them so custody. I knew that they would never never get them back. Doesn’t mean that I’m not gonna try, but I’m really trying for the other people out there because I know that my case is lost , so if anything like this is happening to you, do you have to whatever you have to getting a good lawyer would be the best thing to do but I would say anything is OK when you’re looking at the life of your child

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