When Is Supervised Visitation Appropriate?
When a couple that has children together decides to divorce, they must create a parenting plan for approval by the court. Every parenting plan is unique to the specific circumstances of each divorce and is designed to prioritize the “best interests of the children.” Because of the priority placed upon the child’s best interests, some cases may result in one parent being granted supervised visitation to ensure that the children stay safe during their visits.
Supervised visitation can occur for a variety of reasons. Whether you’re the parent assigned supervised visitation, or you’re the parent requesting it from the court, it’s important to know how third-party supervised visitation works and when it is appropriate.
Parenting Time and Its Different Forms in Arizona
In the state of Arizona, parenting time refers to the ability of the noncustodial parent to be able to spend time with their child. Parenting time, which is more commonly known as visitation, comes in three main forms:
How Is Parenting Time Determined in Arizona?
It is the court’s duty to make decisions it believes are in the best interests of the children involved. This means that when approving or creating a parenting plan and assigning parenting time, a judge will consider a variety of factors that could impact the children. Some of the factors the Arizona family court will take into consideration when determining parenting time include the following:
- The physical and mental health of each parent
- The physical and mental health of each child
- The parent-child relationships
- The ages of the children
- If a parent is able to care for the child properly
- If a parent is able to provide a stable, safe home or environment for the child to stay in
- If there is a history of abuse or violence with the child or other parent
- The preferences of a child (if they’re at a suitable age and the court deems them able to intelligently decide upon a preference)
- If a parent has substance abuse issues
When Is Supervised Visitation Used in Arizona?
The purpose of supervised visitation is to ensure that children stay safe while remaining able to see their other parent. A judge can order supervised visitation due to multiple different circumstances, including the following:
- There is a history of abuse or domestic violence by the parent
- There is a history of substance abuse, or substance abuse is believed to be ongoing
- A parent is mentally ill and presents a potential danger to the child
- A parent attempted to hide or kidnap their child from the other parent
- A parent succeeded in hiding or kidnapping their child from the other parent
- A parent is attempting to restore their relationship with their child
- The judge has sufficient reason to believe the parent can be a potential threat or danger to the child if they are left alone
How Supervised Visitation Works
After a supervised visitation order has been implemented, both parents will be required to follow the terms of that order moving forward. During supervised visitation, parents will first exchange their child either at a court-appointed location or a location agreed upon by both parents.
Some cases also require supervised exchanges, where the parents must meet with a third party or in a public place to pick up or drop off their child. From there, the visitation is required to take place in a public location. This is to add extra safety precautions for the supervisor, the parents, and the child involved.
For the duration of the visit, these general rules must be followed:
- The supervisor must be always present with the parent and child
- The parent should only have positive interactions with their child (i.e., no threatening, acts of punishment, or physical abuse should occur)
- If the supervisor has reason to believe that the parent is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the visit should be canceled
- The parent should not gather information from the child on any matters, whether about the other parent or court issues
- The parent should not talk negatively about the other parent or their family
Who Is Allowed to Supervise a Visitation?
The kind of supervisor you must schedule will depend mostly on the court’s requirements. In some cases, the noncustodial parent is allowed to have a neutral third party as their supervisor, provided a judge agrees that they can help provide a safe meeting space for the children. This could include close relatives like a grandparent or sibling, as well as a trusted family friend. In other situations, a judge may order the noncustodial parent to have some form of professional supervision. This may include a therapist, a qualified family services group, and more.
What Is the Difference Between Supervised Exchange and Visitation?
While supervised visitation is a legally ordered form of parenting time, a supervised exchange involves the process of delivering and picking up children for parenting time. If a judge orders supervised exchanges between parents, they must follow the specific terms laid out by the court when exchanging their children. In some circumstances, the judge may only require that parents meet in a public location for each exchange to help prevent issues from arising. In other situations, the court may require a neutral supervisor to be present when a child is picked up or dropped off to ensure the exchange stays amicable between parents.
Supervised exchanges can occur at an agreed-upon location, or a judge may assign a specific exchange center. There are also some cases where one or both parents do not want to see each other when the child exchange occurs. When this happens, it’s possible to make personal arrangements where the children can be transferred without the parents needing to make contact. However, this is different from court-ordered supervised exchange.
How to Get Supervised Visitation Removed
If you are a noncustodial parent who was assigned temporary supervised visitation, there is a chance that you can have the order amended. With temporary supervised visitation, the court’s hope is that the parent and child can slowly reconstruct their relationship during monitored visits until the parent is in a stable enough place to move to unsupervised visitation.
However, this can take months or even years to happen if the court and the child’s other parent have reservations about your ability to attend unsupervised visitation and keep the child safe. To request this modification to your order, you must provide sufficient evidence that significant changes in your circumstances have occurred.
If you are the custodial parent and believe that the other parent has become a danger to themselves or your child, you also have the right to request modification of your parenting plan. If you believe that the other parent should no longer have visitation rights, you’ll need to provide sufficient evidence as to why you think this is the case. Then, you can request an end to supervised visitation.
Can a Child Refuse Visitation?
Because a parenting plan is a legally binding order, parents who do not bring their children to scheduled visitations are breaking the order’s terms just as if a noncustodial parent were to skip their visit. Unfortunately, sometimes children don’t want to go to visitation or may even outright refuse.
If this occurs, it’s in your best interest to request a modification to your parenting plan through the court. Otherwise, if you continue allowing your child to skip visitations, the noncustodial parent may hold you accountable in court.
In Arizona, legislation states that a child’s preferences can influence parenting time decisions if they are considered to have “suitable maturity” regarding the matter. However, a child cannot refuse a standing visitation order, regardless of their preferences. The only way for a child to legally cease visiting their other parent is if the court modifies the parents’ custody order.
Supervised Visitation FAQs
Since supervised visitation is such a personalized aspect of a child custody order, there are often many questions regarding the process. Here are the most common.
Your Parenting Time and Custody Attorneys in AZ
The Attorneys at The Valley Law Group understands how complex parenting time and custody cases can become. That’s why we offer professional, client-focused representation and advice for residents across Arizona looking for legal assistance.
With our team of attorneys who share multiple decades of experience, you can trust us to secure the best possible outcome in your case. To learn more about our family law services or to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced attorneys, contact The Valley Law Group today.
*Editor’s Note: This article was originally published May 7, 2021 and has been updated March 27, 2023.
Ryan Reppucci, Co-Founder of The Valley Law Group, is recognized as one of Phoenix’s leading family law attorneys. After graduating from Arizona State with the highest honors and inclusion in America’s most prestigious student honor societies, Ryan attended the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law. His career as a law student was decorated with numerous awards, including the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law Book Award, nomination for membership in Who’s Who Among Students in American Colleges and Universities, as well as Moot Court.