Supervised contact or visitation is a way of allowing one parent to spend time with their children if the other parent or a court is concerned that the children may be at risk with that parent.
In Australia, according to the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth), every child has the right to have regular contact with both of their parents and with other significant people in their lives, if it is in their best interests.
What are some reasons for supervised time?
• There are fears of abuse and aggression.
• The separated parents are experiencing elevated levels of conflict.
• There are concerns that the child may be abducted.
• The contact parent has limited parenting skills or requires another person to help them care for the child.
• A child is being introduced or re-introduced to a parent or family member that they do not see regularly, and with whom they have spent little or no time.
How can supervised time take place?
Supervised time or visitation can take place in one of two ways:
Firstly, a person who is known by both parents or the parent with whom the child lives can supervise the time.
Secondly, time can be supervised through a children’s contact service. Their aim is to provide a safe and comfortable place for supervised time.
What happens during the supervised time?
• When the supervised time starts, the child must be handed over to the parent or to the other family member who doesn’t care for them on a daily basis.
• During the supervised, time the supervisor needs to ensure that they safeguard and protect the best interests of the child.
• When the supervised time ends, the child must be handed back to the other parent.
It is worth noting that children’s contact services may need to provide the courts with a family report. This will mention the supervisor’s observations about the parents and child during the visitation.
How is supervised time decided?
• You can have an informal agreement.
• You can agree through a consent order.
• Supervised time can also be ordered by a court. However, the court cannot appoint someone to be a supervisor if they do not want to do it. The court can ask the prospective supervisor to provide testimony in court if any problems arise out of the supervised contact.
Supervised time is generally set over a specific period of time with the purpose that, by the end of the set period, the visitation will no longer be needed. However, if an end time is not clarified, then the contact parent can apply to the court to have the orders varied.
What are the costs of supervised time?
• When using a children’s contact service, you will pay both changeovers and supervised visitation fees, which are distributed among the relevant parties.
• Do inform the children’s contact service if you are on low-income or if you are struggling financially. There tend to be arrangements in place to ensure that you can still access the service you need. This includes the Australian Government who funds numerous outreach organisations as part of their Family Support Program.
To find out more about supervised time with your children or to discuss your family law circumstances in more detail, contact us for expert family law advice at Linda Emery & Associates today on (02) 4323 4766.