When two parents get divorced they already have a lot on their plate to deal with, such as separation of financial and monetary assets and deciding who gets custody of the children. Once the court decides which parent will be the custodial parent and which parent will be the non-custodial or non-residential parent the issues of visitation and supervised visitation crop up.
This won’t be the case if the parents are given joint custody of the child/children. But if one parent gets sole custody and the other parent gets visitation rights then what about the grandparents of the children or the grandparents of the non-custodial parent and their visitation rights?
Visitation rights of grandparents differ from state to state in different countries. Firstly, the court has to arrive at the conclusion that even though the parents are divorced the child still shares a very strong bond with one or both grandparents. There should be a pre-existing relationship between the grandchild and the grandparent that has led to the development of a strong bond. The court will also see if it’s in the best interest of the child to see his grandparents or have them visit.
If the court is satisfied that the child takes immense pleasure and gains a lot of happiness from seeing, interacting and spending time with his or her grandparents and if the parents give their approval for the same and have no objections then the court will grant visitation rights to the grandparents. Grandparents will also be granted visitation rights when –
- The child’s parents are divorced/separated
- A stepparent has adopted the grandchild
- The parents cannot be found and have been missing for over a month
- The child does not live with either parent
- If either parent supports the grandparents’ petition for granting visitation rights
Supervised visitation or ordinary visitation is granted by the court in cases where the parents are getting divorced or separated and only one parent has been granted sole custody of the child and the other parent is given visitation rights only. Before deciding which parents gets custody of the child the court takes into account the preferences of the child and his happiness, physical and emotional well-being and safety. It also looks at both parents financial background and any history of physical, mental abuse etc.
However, a court can in certain circumstances restrict the non-custodial parent’s visitation rights whether supervised or otherwise –
If the court is satisfied that the visits of the non-custodial parent or the visiting parent are causing harm, stress, anxiety to the child or affecting the child physically, mentally or emotionally in any negative way, the court can stop or restrict visitation rights in the following ways –
- By shortening the visitation periods – either the length of time spent per visit or reducing the frequency of visits in a week or month.
- By prohibiting the parent from making overnight visits.
Prohibiting the parent, if he is alcoholic or drug user, from drinking any alcohol or substances containing alcohol, smoking and using drugs of any kind in front of the child.
- By disallowing the alcohol/drug addicted/abusive parent from taking the child out of the house or driving with the child or doing any kinds of dangerous activities like swimming, biking or hiking, etc.
Ordering the addicted/abusive parent to join an AA group or get counseling for his abusive behavior, refer him to doctors, psychologists or psychiatrists, take anger management classes or get any other form of help so that he does not pose a threat to the safety and happiness of the child.
If the parent fails to follow the judge’s orders the judge will deem him unfit and terminate all parental visitation rights permanently.
Supervised visitation is allowed by the court when parents want a divorce due to irreconcilable differences and only one parent gets sole custody of the child. The court decides which parent gets sole custody of the child and which parent gets visitation/supervised visitation rights based on both parents’ financial status, personal history, and background and the happiness and welfare of the child.
However, a court can restrict the non-custodial parent’s visitation rights on the following grounds –
- If the non-residential or non-custodial parent has a history of physical abuse or violence with the spouse or in general. If the parent abuses or threatens the child in any way including the other parent in front of the child even with the court-appointed supervisor present, his visitation rights can be restricted or canceled. The court looks into the safety and well-being of the child first and the child’s safety is given first priority in such cases. Emotional and mental abuse inflicted onto the child in any way such as making the child cry, wet his pants, making him nervous, anxious or scared is also grounds for restriction of visitation rights.
- The court can also restrict the parent’s visitation rights based on the wishes and preferences of the child. For example, in the state of California if the child is 14 years and above he or she can decide the parents’ visitation rights and denial or restriction of such rights if required. The minimum age of the child differs from country to country and state to state. If the child can understand what kind of decision is being made and wants a role in the decision making the judge will certainly allow it.
- Other grounds for visitation restriction include drug and alcohol abuse by the visiting parent, instances of the parent exhibiting any kind of sexual or unusual/abnormal behavior with the child, past felonies, criminal records, non-adherence to visitation rules, incarceration, abduction of the child, etc.
Supervised visitation enables the non-custodial parent to visit his or her child in the presence of a court-appointed supervisor who is experienced in the field of child healthcare and safety. Supervised visitation is to ensure the physical, mental and emotional safety of the child in the presence of the non-residential parent and to avoid any possible conflicts or fights between both parents in the presence of the child.
Supervised visitation has the following benefits or purposes –
- It allows the non-custodial or non-residential parent to visit the child every so often (time period and frequency will be determined by the court) and maintain a healthy relationship with the child. Even though both parents may have parted ways on good or bad terms it is important for the child to see and interact with the mother and the father. The child shouldn’t be deprived of the advantages of being raised by both parents which is why supervised visitation is helpful.
- Supervised visitation provides a safe, conflict-free environment for the child as well as to both parents especially if there are still unresolved disputes and arguments between both parents post the divorce. Supervised visitation puts the child out of any possible risks or threats and keeps the child safe, healthy and happy. It is important for the child to not be exposed to the feuds and fights between both parents and shouldn’t see the parents show hatred and resentment to one another.
- Supervised visitation is helpful to both the parents as well as the child. The visiting parent can enjoy his or her time with the child without being confronted or disturbed by the other parent since the court supervisor or child professional will be present. And the child’s safety and well-being are ensured too, in case the visiting parent has a history of physical abuse, violent, an alcohol problem, etc.
If children are involved in the midst of a divorce the judge will use his discretion to determine whether both parents will share custody of the child/children or which one of the two parents will be the custodial parent and which parent will be the visiting parent.
If you are the visiting parent, then the judge will decide whether your visits need to be supervised or not. Supervised visitation is done to ensure the safety of the child around the visiting parent.
You will be entitled to supervised visitation rights that you need to earn for yourself and this means building a good reputation and name for yourself. Apart from the child’s safety and happiness the judge will look into many factors before granting you your supervised visitation rights.
Here’s how you can earn your supervised visitation rights –
- Don’t display any signs of physical or emotional violence in front of the child. The child’s happiness and safety are of the utmost important to the judge and if the child displays any signs of unhappiness or fear during the visit then you will lose your supervised visitation rights.
- Give up any bad habits that you might have whether it’s smoking, drugs or alcohol. The child does not need to be subjected to any further trauma or negativity especially after already having to deal with the separation of his parents. Also if you have any bad habits that could potentially harm the child or rub off onto the child the judge will deny you your supervised visitation rights.
- Be a good parent to the child always. This is the best way you can earn your supervised visitation rights. Comfort the child and don’t show any stress or anger from the divorce. Help the child with his schoolwork and play with him as much as you can. Never let the child feel guilty or at fault because of the divorce.
A divorce can take a huge toll on you, your spouse, your children, and the entire family. If you and your spouse have major and unsolvable conflicts with each other and can’t even look eye to eye, the divorce proceedings can get all the uglier. In the midst of lawyers, court appearances and haggling over the division of financial assets it is easy to forget the existence of the children and ignore them completely which can affect them in ways you can’t even imagine.
It is very important to remain connected with your child during and post a divorce. Here’s how you can achieve that –
Talk to your child frequently – if you are the visiting parent, i.e.- you’ve been granted only visitation rights or supervised visitation rights, don’t depend on just the scheduled visits to get the chance to interact with your child. Try to get the judge to allow you to phone your child and speak to him via Skype or any other form of video calling at least once a day or once every two days. Staying connected with your children over the phone is as important as spending time with them physically. Even if you are the custodial parent and you’re stuck at the office 12 hours a day make it a point to phone your child while he’s at school and find out if he’s doing okay or if he needs anything.
Involve yourself more in your child’s life – getting carried away with divorce proceedings and spending time at the lawyers’ offices will leave you very little time to be with your child. So even if it’s just an hour that you’re spending with your child, make it count. Help him with his homework or take him out into the backyard and throw the ball around. This will make the child feel wanted and included in your life.