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Courts generally try to support the relationship between a parent and child. Sometimes, however, the parent may engage in risky behaviors, have a violent past, or otherwise pose a danger to the child. Under these circumstances, a court may order supervised visitation. This meets the child’s need to have a relationship with the parent and protects the child from potential risks posed by the parent. 

Parents often don’t understand how supervised visitation works. Below, the Gilmer Law Firm, PLLC, explains supervised visitation in a New York custody case. If you are considering supervised visitation in your custody case, or someone is trying to require it, you should contact our office today.

New York Custody and Visitation General Rules

First, to understand how custody cases with supervised visitation requests are handled, you must understand general custody and visitation rules in New York. 

Custody and Visitation

Child custody in New York consists of two elements: legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody involves the right to make decisions about the child’s life. Physical custody refers to the time each parent spends with the child.  

A court may grant joint custody to both parents. Here, the parents equally share the decision-making responsibilities for the child and have relatively equal physical time with the child. 

Although courts can grant sole legal custody to one parent, they typically grant joint legal custody to parents even if they don’t have joint physical custody. In that case, both parents share in decision-making but the child spends most of their time with one parent and has visitation with the other. This arrangement is often appropriate when the parties live too far apart or one parent’s schedule doesn’t allow for joint physical custody. Sometimes, however, one parent is granted sole physical custody because the other parent poses a risk to the child.

Best Interests of the Child

A court makes all custody and visitation decisions in light of the child’s best interests. In New York, courts decide the best interests of the child by looking at several factors, including:

  • Which parent has assumed responsibility for the child’s care;
  • The stability of each parent’s home and the benefit of keeping the child in their long-term home;
  • If both parents work, the adequacy of their childcare arrangements;
  • The ability of both parents to communicate and cooperate;
  • Each parent’s parenting skills, including strengths and weaknesses as parents;
  • The ability to care for a child with special needs, if relevant;
  • The educational opportunities with each parent;
  • The child’s preference; 
  • Each parent’s physical and mental health; and
  • Whether either parent has a history of violence, abuse, drug or alcohol abuse, or other behavior that may pose a danger to the child.

Even if parents negotiate custody or visitation terms, the court will examine these factors to ensure that any negotiated custody and visitation plan aligns with the child’s best interests.

What Is Supervised Visitation?

Generally, courts believe it’s in the child’s best interests to have regular interactions with their parents. If the court believes it’s in the child’s interest to see the parent, but the parent poses a danger to the child, the court may order supervised visitation. With supervised visitation, the parent cannot be alone with the child. Instead, the court designates a third party, called the supervisor, to monitor all visits between the parent and child. The idea is that the parent is less likely to engage in dangerous behavior with a third party present, and the third party will remove the child from danger if necessary. 

The court can set other rules for supervised visitation. For example, the court may require that the visitation occurs in a neutral or public setting, such as in a library, police department, or social services agency office. The judge will also set the specific days, times, and lengths of the visits. You should speak with a Brooklyn family lawyer about other potential requirements for supervised visitation.

When Would a Court Order Supervised Visitation?

A court may order supervised visitation if there’s evidence that the child would be in danger if left alone with the parent. Some situations where a court may order supervised visitation include:

  • Domestic violence—the parent has a history of violence or domestic abuse, particularly if the violence or abuse is against the child’s other parent;
  • Mental health issues—depending on the mental health issue, a court may order supervised visitation if the parent’s particular condition may result in harm to the child;
  • Drug or alcohol abuse—the parent has a history of drug or alcohol abuse or is currently abusing drugs or alcohol; and
  • Child abuse or neglect—where the parent has a history of child abuse or neglect or is currently under investigation.  

This list is not exhaustive. The court can order supervised visitation whenever evidence supports that it is in the child’s best interest. 

How Does a Court Appoint a Supervisor?

A court can appoint a supervisor, or the parents can agree to a supervisor. The court may appoint a social services agency or another state-recognized provider. 

Otherwise, the parents may agree to appoint someone they mutually know and trust as a supervisor. The court will thoroughly investigate this person, including checking if they have any abuse or neglect accusations and running a criminal background check. Then, that person typically has to agree under oath to enforce the terms of the supervision. For example, they’ll have to agree not to leave the child alone with the parent.

Types of Supervised Visitation

New York courts generally use two types of supervised visitation: 

  • Standard supervised visitation, and 
  • Therapeutic supervised visitation. 

Standard supervised visitation is visitation supervised by any approved third party. With therapeutic visitation, the visit is supervised by a therapist or counselor. The counselor works with the parent to help them improve their parenting skills. 

Modifying a Supervised Visitation Order

Supervised visitation, for the most part, is considered a temporary measure. Typically, a court will re-evaluate supervised visitation over time. Parents with supervised visitation may go back and forth to court for months as the court oversees the visitation. 

However, if the court issued a final order which included supervised visitation, you may be able to modify the order if circumstances change. Modifications of visitation orders can be challenging to argue. You should speak with an experienced family attorney if you’d like to modify your visitation order. 

Contact Our Brooklyn Family Attorney About Supervised Visitation  

If you are interested in supervised visitation, you need a knowledgeable custody lawyer who knows the specific procedures and nuances of custody cases involving supervised visitation. The Gilmer Law Firm, PLLC, has extensive experience litigating custody cases in New York City’s family courts. We can help you navigate the complexities of supervised visitation and fight for what’s right for you and your family. Contact us today.