Given that a court orders supervised visitation when the child’s safety is a concern, it’s no surprise that violating this type of order may lead to severe consequences. Parents who disobey the rules may face further reduction in their custody rights, fines or even criminal charges. Every case is different, so pay attention to your specific court order and the rules outlined by your supervisor.
The information below aims to help you better understand what supervised visitation is, what happens if it’s violated and what you may be able to do to decrease the chance of being found in contempt of court.
What is supervised visitation?
Supervised visitation might be ordered if a parent presents a safety risk to their child. Typically, this court order means a third party must be present throughout a mother’s or father’s entire parenting time with their child. This supervisor may be a child protective services (CPS) agency, a professional or a layperson approved by the judge. Most often, the supervisor takes notes about the interactions between the parent and child, and they might have to report their observations to the court.
Depending on where you live, there may be other forms of restricted parenting time that are more lax than supervised visitation, including:
- Monitored visitation that requires a third party to periodically check on a parent and their child during visitation
- Visits that are unsupervised but require a parent to check in with a third party before and after parenting time
If a parent makes progress with their supervised visitation program, they might “graduate” to one of these more lax forms of restricted parenting, or they might have all restrictions on their parenting time removed. On the other hand, if a parent fails to follow the rules of their supervised visitation, they might partially or completely lose parenting rights or other rights.
The consequences of breaking a supervised visitation rule
The rules that a parent has to follow in regard to supervised visitation depend on the court order, as well as factors such as:
- Who’s supervising the visitation
- Where the visitation takes place
- What’s in the supervised parent’s parenting or criminal history
If a parent breaks the rules, depending on the severity of the supervised visitation violation, they may be subject to the following:
- Civil fines
- Further restrictions on their parental rights
- Criminal charges, including kidnapping and assault
How to avoid committing supervised visitation violations
If you’re subject to supervised or restricted visitation, the first thing to do is read the court’s visitation order. Be sure you understand all the requirements and how to comply with those rules.
You also need to understand the rules of your specific supervisor. This might mean reading CPS supervised visitation guidelines in your area, reviewing agency policies or having a discussion with your supervisor.
The following are some general rules supervised parents may be required to follow.
Don’t try to take your child away from the agreed-upon or court-ordered location for the visit
In general, a visitation supervisor needs to be able to see or hear everything that the parent and child do or say during the visit. If the parent can’t respect that rule, the court might believe they can’t be trusted with the child.
Don’t make negative comments about the child’s other parent, family members or caretakers
In many states, an important factor that family courts examine in assessing what custody arrangement is in the best interests of the child is whether each parent can foster a close relationship between the child and the other parent. If a parent under supervised visitation (or any parent) constantly makes disparaging comments about the child’s other parent or their family, that might indicate that the parent can’t put their child’s needs ahead of their own.
Don’t strike or threaten the child
Regardless of a parent’s views or their state’s laws on corporal punishment, their visitation order or assigned supervisor might have strict rules against striking or spanking their child. Threats to spank or harm a child might also be viewed as abusive or not in the child’s best interests.
Don’t make hurtful comments to the child
Parenting situations can be quite high-stress, but parents under supervised visitation orders need to be careful about what they say to their children during visits. If a parent makes comments to their child that disparage the child, the supervisor might report to the court that the parent has failed to keep the child’s best interests in mind.
Don’t use drugs or alcohol during the visit or show up inebriated or high
A parent’s drug or alcohol use while a child is under their care may be viewed as a safety risk for the child. If a parent reports to visitation or participates in visitation while under the influence of a substance, their supervisor might terminate the visit early and report the parent’s behavior to the court or authorities such as CPS.
Don’t skip or show up late to scheduled visits
Regularly showing up late to visits or canceling without notice might be a violation of a supervisor’s visitation rules. And even if a supervisor hasn’t set clear rules regarding punctuality or consistency, tardiness or absenteeism might communicate to the court that the supervised parent isn’t ready to handle more parenting responsibilities.
Don’t discuss the court case with the child
The details of a family law case may be too emotionally burdensome for a child. So a supervised parent’s attempts to discuss their case with their child might break the rules of their parenting time order. Also, telling a child about the family law case that involves them might alienate that child from their other parent or family members, which is typically not considered to be in the child’s best interests.
When to speak with an attorney
When a parent violates a supervised visitation order, a supervisor or the other parent may have the right or obligation to report the offense to the authorities. The other parent may also have the option to file a motion to restrict the supervised parent’s visitation rights, which could involve a hearing. Since matters involving children and the law are delicate, many parents find it beneficial to consult an attorney for help with visitation disputes.
An attorney can assist a parent accused of violating a visitation order or a parent seeking to enforce such an order. The attorney can advise on the best course of action, timely file the appropriate motions and protect the parent’s rights in court.