When parents decide to divorce or separate, most expect that each will have some amount of regular physical custody of the child. Though they may differ on the specific amount of time and dates of such shared custody, there is usually little question that both parents will have a consistent presence in the child’s life. Under Indiana law, courts decide child custody based on the best interests of the child, which usually results in one of two outcomes: the parents share custody, or one parent receives primary physical custody, while the other parent gets reasonable parenting time.
The evaluation of the best interests of the child is designed to decide which custody arrangement is most likely to promote the physical and mental welfare of the child, and includes looking at the quality of each parent/child relationship and how well-adjusted the child is in a particular home. While the State generally wants to promote a healthy relationship with both parents, which means a parent is rarely prohibited from having at least some amount of contact, the law does support restricting a parent’s visitation if the health of the child is at risk. One way courts can choose to protect a child from a parent is to order supervised visitation. When a court might be willing to consider ordering this type of restricted visitation, and how supervised visitation works in practice, will follow below.
Circumstances Justifying Supervised Custody
As noted above, anytime the court is concerned that a parent could threaten the physical, mental, or emotional health of a child, limiting contact and awarding sole custody are likely to receive consideration as a possible way to protect the child’s well-being. Parents with histories of domestic violence are especially likely to receive extra scrutiny from the court over visitation. The court is specifically authorized to impose supervised visitation on a non-custodial parent if there is a conviction for domestic/family violence, and the child witnessed or overheard the incident. In this situation, it is presumed the parent will be ordered to have supervised visitation for one to two years, and to regain unsupervised visitation, could be required to complete a batterer’s intervention program.
In addition, a parent who has other reasons to fear for the safety of his or her child (drug use, gang involvement) can ask the court to order supervised visitation. However, the parent requesting the restriction will need to present strong and clear evidence that the other parent poses an active danger to the child to overcome the preference for allowing open visitation.
What Does Supervised Visitation Mean?
The purpose of supervised visitation is to allow the child to maintain some level of interaction with a parent, but do so in a safe and neutral environment. These visitation sessions often take place at court-approved child advocacy centers that use third party facilitators to observe the interaction between the parent and child. Courts can order constant or periodic supervision, which will dictate if the facilitator remains present the entire time or leaves for certain periods. In addition, the facilitator may report back to the court on how well a session went, so the judge can assess if the limited visitation is still necessary or should be lifted.
Consult a Family Law Attorney
Child custody is a hugely important and often contentious issue in many divorce cases for good reason – parents have a lot at stake. If you have concerns about your child’s safety, you need the assistance of an experienced family law attorney to get you a custody order that will provide adequate protection for your family. Attorney Christopher L. Arrington understands how important and sensitive this issue is, and will work to get the custody solution you want. If you live in Danville, Avon, Brownsburg, or the surrounding area, contact him to schedule an appointment.