Michigan Family Court-Ordered Supervised Visitation
Only being able to see your child with someone looking over your shoulder is one of the more frustrating positions it’s possible for a parent to be in, but it’s not one the court chooses lightly. To be specific, if you’ve ended up with a Parenting Time Order that only allows you supervised visitation of your child, it’s because the court believes you to be unable to be trusted with the child unsupervised.
This means you have one or more of the following:
- A judge who believes you present a genuine risk of parental kidnapping,
- A judge who believes that you and your child are completely estranged,
- A recent conviction, a recent release from jail or prison, or are currently in jail or prison,
- A history of mental illness,
- A history of neglect or abuse of the child or domestic abuse in general,
- A history of (or current problem with) substance abuse,
- A history of inappropriate sexual behavior with your child or other children, or
- A child who has specifically requested that you only be allowed supervised visits.
Types of Supervised Visit
There are three categories of supervised visit, each with its own restrictions. You can be restricted to visiting your child with a family member or close family friend present, with a therapist present, or with a government agent present.
The Family/Friend Supervised Visitation
When the court decides that you don’t present an immediate danger to your child, but that there should still be someone there to watch, this is the option it chooses. It’s most commonly chosen for estranged children, parents who are recovering addicts, or parents who were recently released from jail or prison for nonviolent charges. There are three levels of restriction available: that you be in the supervisor’s home during the visit, that the supervisor be in the room during the visit, and that the supervisor must maintain visual contact with you and the child at all times during the visit.
The Therapist Supervised Visitation
If the court believes that you don’t present a danger to your child but does believe that you and your child need professional help to successfully reunite, this is the option it chooses. The rules are identical to the above, but during the visit the therapist will take a much more active role helping you and your child communicate and build a relationship with each other.
The Agency Supervised Visitation
Agency supervision is implemented for those parents that the court believes do present a physical, mental, or emotional threat to their child. The rules for an agency supervised visit are much more restrictive. You are not allowed to initiate physical contact with your child, for example: you must wait for them to touch you first, and follow their lead carefully. You are also not allowed to communicate with your child inaudibly; the supervisor must be able to clearly hear (and understand — no languages they don’t speak) everything you say. This means no written communication, either! You must have all gifts given to the child inspected and approved before they are given. Finally, you can only visit your child in a pre-approved area designed to be a safe visitation space.
Moving Past Supervised Visitation
A family lawyer can help you figure out exactly what you have to do to get the Parenting Time Order modified so that you are no longer required to have supervised visits with your child. It probably won’t be easy, and in some cases may actually be impossible. (For example, you may have a mental illness that doesn’t respond to medication.) In general, however, if you are determined, you can win back the right to visit your child without someone looming nearby. Ask your family attorney for details.
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