If you are going through a child custody battle in South Carolina, then one of the things that you or the Court may need to decide is whether or not supervised visitation is necessary. Supervised visitation means that a third party, usually a family member or friend, but sometimes a paid professional supervisor, will be present during visits between the child and the non-custodial parent. This is often done to ensure the safety of the child and can be ordered by the court if there is reason to believe that it is necessary. Some of the situations which may dictate the need for supervised visitation are as follows:
1. The Parent Suffers from Substance Abuse Issues
If the non-custodial parent suffers from any substance abuse issues, then it may be necessary to have someone else always present during visits in order to ensure that the child is not put in any danger or exposed to any inappropriate situations. This is especially true if there is a history of violence while under the influence or if the child has expressed fear of the parent.
In addition to appointing a supervisor requirement in these cases, the Court will often require some form of random substance testing to ensure the parent is not using while exercising their parenting time. One particular tool, I’ve found success with in cases where a parent may struggle with alcoholism is SoberLink. This is a paid service that provides a device the parent uses to test their breath for alcohol before and during visits to ensure they are sober while spending time with the child. The service will provide real-time notifications by email and/or text to the other parent, the Guardian ad Litem, or to any other professional who may need to be notified so that if a positive result or a missed test is logged, the visit can be canceled to keep the child safe.
2. The Parent Has a History of Domestic Violence
If the non-custodial parent has a history of domestic violence, even if it did not involve the child, then supervised visitation may be ordered. This is because there is a heightened risk of violence when the parent is around the child and it is important to ensure that the child is safe at all times. If there have been any incidents of domestic violence involving the child, then this will almost certainly result in a supervised visitation order as well as other conditions such as a requirement for anger management counseling and/or therapy, possibly before the visits even begin.
In these cases, it is essential that the supervisor be someone who is trained in spotting signs of abuse and who knows what to do if they witness any abusive behavior. They should also be someone who is comfortable speaking up and saying something if they see anything that makes them concerned for the child’s safety. The Court and the appointed Guardian ad Litem will rely heavily on the supervisor to make regular reports that the parent is acting appropriately during the visits and the child is safe to continue visits going forward.
3. The Parent Has a History of Alienating Behaviors When Around the Child
If the non-custodial parent has a history of alienating behaviors when around the child, such as badmouthing the other parent or coaching the child to say things that are not true, or actively trying to turn the child against the custodial parent, then supervised visitation may be ordered. This is because it is important to protect the child from any emotional damage that may be caused by these behaviors.
In cases like this, the supervisor will be responsible for monitoring the interactions by “sight and sound” between the parent and child and making sure that no alienating behaviors or coaching are taking place. They will also need to be prepared to step in and diffuse any situations which may arise, including ending the visit immediately if the parent does anything inappropriate. Again, the Court and the Guardian ad Litem will often require regular reports from the supervisor in order to ensure that the visits are going well and that there is no further emotional damage being done.
Supervised visitation can be a necessary step to protect children in certain situations, but it is not always the best solution. If you are going through a child custody battle and think that supervised visitation may be necessary, then you should speak to an experienced family law attorney in South Carolina to discuss your options and ensure that your child’s best interests are protected.