Why Would a Court Order Supervised Visitation?
The family law courts have several responsibilities when deciding the legal outcome of Michigan divorces. A judge takes few duties more seriously than the future well-being of children whose lives have been disrupted by the family law court proceedings. Usually, a family law judge will try to split parenting time and child custody as equally as possible (mothers tend to be granted more time than fathers, though). However, in certain circumstances, a judge may deem it necessary to limit one parent’s time with a child after the end of a cohabiting partnership, even requiring that the other parent only visit their child under strict supervision.
Supervised visitation and any restricted visitation rights are ordered only in the most extreme of circumstances. Generally, Michigan courts want a child’s relationship with either parent to remain healthy and unchanged, if at all possible.
Reasons why a judge may order supervised visitation include the following:
- A history of domestic violence, whether directed toward the child or an adult, could result in the need for supervised visitations.
- A parent is estranged from their child.
- A parent has a mental illness or physical disability which challenges their ability to care for a child properly.
- Abandonment may lose a parent’s right to return to their child’s life.
- The parent has a history of drug addiction or alcohol abuse which might make them dangerous and put a child at risk if they were left alone.
- The parent has a history of inappropriate sexual activity either with the child or around the child.
- The parent has a known history of negligence. If a child has ever been neglected by their parents, this will affect their visitation rights.
- The parent has been recently convicted for a serious crime, was recently in prison, or is currently on parole.
- The parent represents a flight risk as a judge fears they may kidnap the child.
- And in some cases, the child may expressly ask for visitation with supervision.
What Are the Different Types of Supervised Visitation in Michigan?
Michigan has three different types of supervised visitation: third-party supervision, therapist supervised visitation, and agency supervised visitation.
Third-party supervised visitation allows a close friend or family member to serve as the supervisor of a visit. This is the most lenient form of supervised visitation and is only granted by the courts if they believe the parent does not pose a dangerous threat to the child. This option is often reserved for situations involving parents who’ve become estranged from their children, parents recently released from jail (for non-violent crimes), and parents in recovery programs for drug or alcohol addiction. Even with this lighter form of supervised visitation, there are additional levels of restrictions. The loosest form requires that the third party be within the same house at the time of the visitation, the middle level requires that the third party be in the same room as the adult when visiting with the child, and finally, there is a restriction level that requires the third party supervisor to keep visual contact with the child and parent at all times.
Therapist supervised visitation (also known as therapeutic parenting time) is for situations where the court believes the parent poses no threat to the child, but they have reason to believe that the visitations would go better with a mental health professional present. While the therapist’s primary concern will be for the comfort and well-being of the child, they will also be there to help the parent communicate with the child better. The rules and restrictions are similar to third-party supervision, but a therapist will likely take a more active role in the shared visitation. The parent with supervised visitation restrictions may petition later on that, thanks in part to the therapist’s supervision, the concerns have now been laid to rest and they should be granted unsupervised visitation.
Agency parenting time (otherwise known as agency supervised visitation) is the strictest form of supervised visitation in Michigan. This is usually ordered when a judge believes that the parent poses a mental, physical, or sexual threat to the child. Under agency supervision, the parent is only allowed to visit with their child at a family services approved area. They must not touch the child – only the child may initiate contact. Additionally, they cannot pass along written notes to the child, all gifts must be thoroughly inspected, and they must not speak with the child inaudibly.
Is it Possible to Go from Supervised to Unsupervised Visitation?
An experienced child custody lawyer can assist you in presenting a case to the courts that you no longer require supervised visitation. Whether approval for unsupervised visitation will be granted depends on the circumstances of your case. For example, those with a history of sexual violence or those with mental illnesses which make them incapable of serving as guardians will likely never be granted unsupervised visitation. Others have a chance, though, especially with a skilled family law attorney in your corner.
Contact Us for a Free Phone Consultation to Discuss Your Case in More Detail
Supervised visitation can be a frustrating experience. However, some fathers may have an opportunity to fight for loosened visitation restrictions. The American Divorce Association for Men has years of experience representing fathers’ rights in Michigan. We would be proud to examine your case and offer professional legal advice. Our law firm prides itself on providing fathers with compassionate, aggressive legal counsel, and we would like the opportunity to help you pursue your goals.
For a free consultation, please call our law office at (248) 290-6675.