Supervised Visitation – When does it happen?

Supervised visitation is a surprisingly common request in an initial parenting plan.  However, there are very few cases in which it actually applies.

Supervised visitation for a parent may be ordered by the Court in cases in which a parent’s addiction has placed the child(ren) in harm’s way.  This can include drug addiction or alcohol addiction.

Unfortunately, we see a lot of cases of heroin addiction in St. Charles County (much like the rest of the country).    Active heroin addicts often place a child in harm’s way.  This can include neglecting a child’s needs while under the influence, driving with the child while under the influence, exposing the child to other addicts, and having needles and drugs that can be accessed by the child.  As such, supervised visitation will typically be ordered if a parent is an active heroin addict.  Supervised visitation will not be ordered if a parent who had an active addiction is now in recovery.

Alcohol usage that places a child at risk can be more difficult to discern that drug usage.  Supervised visitation is necessary when a parent consumes alcohol in such quantities that it places the child in harm’s way.  In cases of alcohol addiction, the safety of the child can be just as at risk as cases of heroin addiction.

Mental illness can be another reason for supervised visitation.  However, determining when mental illness places a child in harm’s way can be difficult as well.  Just because someone is mentally ill does not mean that they are a danger to their child.  Furthermore, the term “mental illness” is quite broad.  However, pronounced mental illness sometimes drives parents to do things that can endanger the child.  While it is not the fault of the mentally ill parent, the child still must be protected.  Certain types of mental illness can also lead to child abuse and neglect.

Supervised visitation is required in cases in which a parent has been convicted of certain crimes, typically sex crimes involving children.  The statute governing custody in Missouri sets forth certain criminal convictions for which a Court is required to order supervised visitation.  The statute also sets forth other criminal convictions in which a Court may consider supervised visitation.

Each custody case is unique with many different factors to be considered.  Orders for supervised visitation are the exception not the rule.  However, a Court will order supervised visitation in cases in which a child’s health or safety is at risk when with a parent.