An issue that follows divorces, when children are involved, is visitation or what the courts now like to call “parenting schedules”. Parenting schedules allow parents to spend time with their children, especially for the non-custodial parent (the parent that does not have physical custody).
Visitation can be either supervised or unsupervised. Supervised visitation will be ordered when there has been some neglect, domestic violence or sexual abuse allegations or findings made toward one parent.
Supervised visitation is where a third party oversees or “supervises” the visit between the child and the parent to assure no harm comes to the child and that the parent is acting in a appropriate manner. A third party may be a family relative, a family friend or a professional or agency that provides visits to be held at their setting. This is called a visitation center and a fee is charged for using such a center.
Supervised visitations are intended to protect the child when it might not be otherwise safe for the child to be left alone with a parent during the visitation. The “supervisor” may stop the visit at any time if he or she feels the child is in harm’s way or the parent is acting inappropriate. The supervisor may also report any such conduct to the court or may file a 51A report to the Department of Children and Families.
If parents are able to communicate in an amicable way, a court ordered visitation schedule is not necessary. The parents, in this situation, will often work together to make sure each has ample time with the children and will be flexible enough to accommodate both the parent’s and children’s schedules.
If the parents are unable to communicate or are unable or unwilling to get along, a court ordered visitation schedule should be obtained. The court order will detail when, where and how the visitations will take place. Ideally, each parent will get 50% of the time with the child. However, due to factors such as disruption of the child’s routine/life, best interests of the child, work schedules, school, travel arrangement, conduct of the parents, siblings, housing arrangements, child’s needs, child’s age, one parent will have less time with the child than the other. These are only some of the factors that might impact the visitation schedule the court orders.
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