A fundamental premise underlying child custody and visitation orders is that children should have frequent and continuous contact with their parents. Unfortunately, there are instances when a court will place limits on that contact and will order supervised visitation – a situation where a neutral third person is required to be present during the visit. Supervised visitation is typically ordered in cases where a judge is concerned about the safety and protection of a child. In any matter involving child custody and visitation issues, parents are encouraged to contact an experienced family law attorney who can protect and preserve their family’s interests.
There are a variety of reasons for which a judge will order supervised visitation. Here are some of the more common situations where courts in California have ordered the presence of a neutral third party during visitation: 1) to afford the visiting parent an opportunity to address certain issues; 2) to help introduce a child and parent when there has been no previous relationship; 3) to help reintroduce a parent and child after a long absence; 4) if there has been a history of child abuse and neglect, substance abuse or allegations of domestic violence; 5) if there are other parenting concerns or the presence of mental illness; or 6) if there is a threat of parental abduction.
In California there are three types of supervised visitation providers: professional, nonprofessional, and therapeutic providers. Professional and therapeutic providers have experience in, and are trained to provide, supervised visitation and usually charge a fee for their services. On the other hand, a nonprofessional provider most often is a friend or family member who is qualified to serve in this capacity. Courts typically include in the custody and visitation order the type of visitation provider deemed appropriate for the case. All providers of supervised visitation in California must meet a set of minimum qualifications, depending on the category.
Interestingly enough, in January of this year, California amended the law governing professional providers and now requires that in order to serve in this capacity, one must complete 24 hours of training provided by the California Administrative Office of the Courts, Center for Families, Children & the Courts, Access to Visitation Grant Program.
In addition to selecting the supervised visitation provider, parents will also need to choose a visitation location depending on the family’s circumstances. Because spending time with a child in the presence of a neutral third party may be awkward or uncomfortable, the California courts’ website sets forth the following tips to help alleviate these concerns: parents should read and understand the court order concerning visitation; arrive at the visitation session on time and leave promptly as well; refrain from discussing matters concerning the court case with the children; avoid asking the children about the other parent’s activities and relationships; try not to use the child as a messenger to the other parent; and be brief and upbeat when saying goodbye to the children.
Child custody and visitation are potentially the most heated and contentious issues surrounding a divorce or separation proceeding. An experienced San Diego family law attorney can help families to navigate through the process with relative comfort and ease.
Parents with questions about child custody and visitation matters are encouraged to contact Doppelt and Forney, APLC . Mr. Doppelt is a knowledgeable family law attorney with more than 20 years of experience representing parents in Southern California. Doppelt and Forney, APLC serves clients in Linda Vista, Encinitas, Scripps Ranch, San Diego, and throughout Southern California. For a consultation with a dedicated family lawyer, contact Doppelt and Forney, APLC through the law firm’s website or give us a call toll-free at (800) ROY IS IT (769-4748).
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