There are some situations where it is inappropriate for children to timeshare with their parents alone. These include cases where a parent has a substance abuse issue, a history of driving under the influence, domestic violence, or has otherwise put the child in danger. Supervised visitation is also often ordered by the Court or agreed to by the parties when a parent is reunifying with a child after not seeing him or her for a long period of time. There are several different options for supervised timesharing.
In Sarasota County, we are fortunate to have a Supervised Visitation Program through the Child Protection Center. The parent dropping the child off does not interact with the parent having the supervised visit as the Program carefully coordinates the arrival times of both parties. There is a Sheriff’s deputy on site to ensure the safety of everyone present. During the visit, a volunteer supervisor monitors stays in the room with the parent and child or children the entire time and makes a report regarding the visit, which can be filed with the Court if requested.
Manatee County, unfortunately, does not have a similar program but there are private supervision centers with varying fee structures. Most of the private supervisors are willing to supervise visits outside of their visitation centers once they have satisfied themselves that the parent visiting does not pose a kidnapping risk or is otherwise high risk. The private supervisors, who supervise visits in both Sarasota and Manatee Counties, also make reports regarding their visits.
Reunification is somewhat different from “normal” supervised visitation. The purpose is less about safety than about the child’s emotional comfort in being around the parent after an extended absence. This absence can be because of dependency court issues, voluntary absence, a withholding of the child by the parent who has the child, or maybe a paternity case in which a father does not learn that he has a child until the child is older. Some reunifications are done with the other parent supervising, if the parties have an amicable enough relationship but usually a third party supervisor such at the Supervised Visitation Program, a private supervisor, or a family member is involved. The number of supervised visits during a reunification varies and the Court may require the parties to return for another hearing before converting the visits to unsupervised to ensure the child is ready.
Regardless of the reasons supervision is necessary in a particular case, it is important to know the resources available and to ensure that the child or children involved are protected.