Sometimes we all need a little help, and in a divorce context, sometimes that little bit of help means that someone is supervising the parenting time with your child and the other parent or maybe the only way you are able to see your child is if someone is supervising.
What’s that all about?
Supervised parenting time most often occurs when there has been an allegation of physical abuse of a child, or an allegation of physical abuse of an adult in the presence of a child. Sometimes there is concern that a parent is emotionally abusive to a child – saying inappropriate things to a child that causes the child emotional harm. If something has happened that causes concern, even temporarily, courts are going to want to be cautious to get more information through observation.
We look first to see if there is someone that is well known to both parents, someone that both agree can be trusted to make sure the child is protected. This isn’t as easy as it sounds. Asking someone to supervise means that they must be within sight and sound of the child at all times, for several hours, which means that the supervisor is taking time away from their own lives. The supervisor also needs to be someone who is willing to correct behavior that is inappropriate, and report that behavior to either the other parent or to the court. If the supervisor is Grandma who is 80 years old, and believes that her son or daughter could never do anything bad, that person is not going to be a good supervisor. On the other hand, grandparents first loyalty is often to make sure their grandchild is protected, and are the most likely people to be willing to commit the time to several hours of their day, two or three days a week, when it isn’t possible for most people.
If there is not a relative or friend that is acceptable to both parents, or ultimately to the court if the judge is asked to make the decision, then professional supervision may be necessary. There are very few professional supervisors who have the credentials and understanding of what it takes to provide a safe environment. Supervisors are often therapists who are going to charge $40 to $80 per hour for supervision. They have to understand that their role as a supervisor is to understand the situation so that the child is protected, and enough empathy so that the parenting time is as natural as possible. Depending on the situation, supervision may take place in a public place, such as park or a restaurant. However, if there is domestic violence, then the parent who is the victim has to be safe in taking the child to the supervisor and in getting the child in return. This means that the facility must be secure, there must be separate entrances and separate places for each of the parties , and there must be a procedure to keep the parties separate to prevent any further incidents particularly when the child is present to witness the conflict. There also needs to be sufficient security to prevent the parent from taking the child and leaving. Right now, there is only one facility in the Portland Metro area that is able to have full security. There is one other place that has a facility with no security, and a handful of people who are available to supervise without a facility.
Supervision is not usually for an extended period of time. If there is a pattern of appropriate behavior, then parenting time is phased into unsupervised behavior as soon as is practicable. It is simply too expensive, too difficult to arrange, and interfers in a normal parent-child relationship. It’s hard to have the normal type of interaction that happens when someone is watching you all of the time, and your time and type of interaction is limited. However, it’s important that children be protected, both physically and emotionally, and supervised parenting time can be a critical way to keep a relationship and keep children safe.