When it comes to any divorce that involves children, Texas courts put the child's best interests ahead of anything else. Because a child will benefit most from having a continuous, consistent relationship with both parents. As such, the goal is to have a visitation schedule that allows both parents to spend quality time with their child. However, if one parent poses a threat to the child, safety becomes top priority and the judge will restrict that parent to supervised visitation.
Supervised visitation is assigned in cases where physical abuse, substance abuse, or mental illness have made it unsafe for the child to be alone that parent. However, the judge may feel that the child could still benefit from some relationship with both parents. In this instance, the supervised parent may still be allowed to see the child, but only under certain conditions.
To begin with, the supervised parent must see the child only at the court building or other approved facility and cannot take him or her anywhere else. There must also be an approved third person present during the entire visit. However, because that person must fill out and turn in a report detailing the meeting between the parent and child, he or she must be able to prove without a shadow of a doubt the ability to be completely objective. It is usually best to go with a court appointed observer. That person will watch for things such as how the parent speaks to the child. Does he or she intimidate or degrade the child? Does he or she show interest in the child's school or outside activities? Does the child initiate conversation easily? Is the child comfortable with that parent? After the visitation, the observer will write a report about the meeting and give it to the judge. If the supervised parent follows the rules laid out by the court, and if the observer's reporters are good, he or she may be given permission to meet the child somewhere other than the court building, such as a playground or restaurant, as long as the other adult can still see them.
Another option is for the judge to allow a friend or family member to continuously supervise the parent and the child in their own home. This is less intrusive and less disruptive as the clinical supervision. Moreover, there are also supervised visitation companies that will supervise the parent and the child at a public location such as the park.
Ending supervised visitation is not easy. When visitation begins, the court will create a list of requirements that parent must meet before any changes can be made. For example, if the supervised parent has an alcohol addiction, he or she must complete a program to help control excess drinking. Not only must the supervised parent prove completion the program, he or she must also provide proof of sobriety, sometimes for up to a year. The same with drug addiction. In the case of mental illness, the testimony of professionals, such as therapists or doctors, must be presented to the court, proving the unsupervised parent is compliant with their medications and therapy and is making progress. Even the non-supervised parent may make recommendations in favor of the supervised parent if he or she feels the other parent has made significant progress.
Supervised visitation is vital for the safety of a child who cannot speak for himself or has been too intimidated to do so. If a parent seriously wants to become active in his or her child's life again, going through the steps of supervised visitation to unsupervised visitation will prove this to everyone, most importantly, to the child.