The vast majority of parents work hard to make sure that they are always taking the best steps for a child's safety and that they are making the best possible parenting decisions. Unfortunately, in some rare circumstances, one parent may not be keeping a child's best interest in mind and may even take actions that could or do harm the children. In these rare cases, the other parent may need to request supervised visitation.
New Jersey Statute 2A:12-7 provides for supervised visitation where "there has been a history of child abuse, medical disabilities, psychiatric problems or other situations where the safety and welfare of the child may be jeopardized." As is evidenced by the plain language of the statute, supervised visits are not appropriate simply because one parent has concerns about the other parent's parenting skills. A parent seeking supervised visitation must be able to point to a concrete concern and must be able to back up that concern with evidence sufficient to convince a judge that the danger is real. Essentially, the parent requesting supervised visits needs to prove that the child is likely to be harmed if left unsupervised with the other parent. A court order for supervised visitation will provide for the length of visits, the location, and the identity of the person responsible for supervising the visit.
There are a variety of ways to address supervised visits. The method will need to be adjusted depending on the reason the visits are ordered to be supervised. For example, if the visits are supervised because one parent has a physical disability too severe to adequately care for the child alone, then perhaps that parent's sibling or parent could supervise the visit to make sure that the child's needs are adequately looked after during visitation. However, if the visits are supervised because the parent has a history of domestic violence or drug abuse, a more tightly controlled environment may be more appropriate. In recognition of the situations in which a safer environment may be needed, New Jersey has a Supervised Visitation Program. This program provides for safe spaces and neutral, third-party visitation supervisors in order to allow continued contact between a child and a parent while still maintaining a controlled environment to help keep the child safe.
If you are facing a case that may require supervised visitation, contact us today at (732) 529-6937. We have helped many clients get through these types of cases.