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How supervised visitation works in Texas child custody cases

Supervised visitation isn’t the ideal way to parent a child but sometimes it’s necessary to help ensure a child’s physical and mental wellbeing. The most common reasons a Texas judge will order supervised visitation is when clear and convincing evidence shows a history of family violence, or a parent’s alcohol or drug abuse puts a child at risk.

Some parties also request supervised visitation for reasons that are less tangible. Clients often tell us they want supervised access because the other parent is a narcissist, crazy, depressed, highly anxious or committing parental alienation. These subjective accusations are not as easy to prove, and the court will need proof that the parent’s behavior poses a risk to the child before ordering supervised access.

We explain how narcissism affects child custody outcomes in this recent post.

What is supervised visitation?

In its basic form, supervised visitation comes as a result of one party’s bad actions. When a judge orders supervised visitation in a Texas child custody case, the supervision generally occurs in one of two ways: supervision through the family courts or supervision by a family member.

The orders will also stipulate supervised visitation rules, such as requiring the parent to not drink alcohol or use illegal drugs 24 hours or more prior to visitation with the child. In addition, parents accused of family violence may be required to complete a battering intervention and prevention program by a certain date.

Learn more about child custody and domestic violence here.

Typically, a parent ordered to have supervised access to their child must advise the primary parent within 48 hours that a supervised visit is going to occur. In addition, the supervised parent is usually responsible for any costs or fees associated with a supervised visit.

Prior to visitation, the parents and person named as the designated supervisor will also receive supervised visitation guidelines to follow based on the judge’s orders.

How supervised visitation through the family courts plays out

The most restrictive form of supervision is handled through family court services and is scheduled by the court. In this scenario, the father or mother being supervised goes to the court and spends an hour or so with his or her child. Prior to the visit, a caseworker will review supervised visitation guidelines and instruct the parent not to touch the child or interact in a way that’s inappropriate.

During the supervised visit, the caseworker watches over the parent and child while taking notes. After the visit, the caseworker reports his or her findings back to the court, as well as the other parent or guardian.

In some situations, the court may entertain other ideas for supervised visitation, such as meeting at an offsite location. This could include a mall or occur through a private program that facilitates supervised parent-child visits.

What’s unfortunate about these non-family supervisor scenarios is that a person who doesn’t know the child or parent gets to make a determination about the visit.

Spending time with mom or dad in a courthouse or unfamiliar place isn’t usually the best environment for a kid, either. In most cases, the child would probably be more comfortable at a grandma, grandpa or aunt’s house. Unfortunately, supervised visitation through the family courts may be the only option for some families.

TIP: If you’re a Texas parent looking for places to go for supervised visitation near me, the Texas Office of the Attorney General Access & Visitation program provides a search directory tool here.

Is supervised visitation with a family member a better option?

The less extreme version of supervision comes in the form of a family member acting as the supervisor. Family supervisor scenarios are often easier on children because they get to visit with mom or dad in a familiar, more natural place. The family member is also more likely to put the child at ease and make him or her feel safe and secure compared to a stranger.

That’s not to say that that agreeing to a family member supervisor is always easy. We often run into situations where a parent who has never had a problem with the designated family member previously, ends up throwing a fit simply because the supervisor is related to his or her ex.

Even when the parents agree on a family member to supervise the visitation, we often see problems with supervision. For example, you may have a family member who doesn’t supervise properly, where a child comes back from dad’s house and says to mom, “Hey, I was at dad’s and grandpa was gone.” Now, mom wants a new hearing to modify child custody and visitation again, so back to court they go.

Going from supervised visitation to unsupervised: What does it take?

People often ask us how to get supervised visitation removed. If you have been ordered to undergo supervised visitation, the court will expect you to take certain steps to prove your fitness as a parent.

When our Fort Worth family lawyers handle requests for supervised custody, we believe it’s important to be clear about the hoops the parent will need to jump through to end supervision and spell out how and when supervised visitation will end. Regardless of what side you’re on, it’s important to know what you’re seeking to remedy, like addiction, or whether a remedy is even available (there is no cure for narcissism).

In cases where the parent lost custody or unsupervised visitation due to a drug or alcohol problem, that parent will typically need to undergo a treatment program and maintain sobriety for a certain period of time before going from supervised visitation to unsupervised. The testimony of medical and mental health professionals about the fitness of the parent also plays a role in resolving most supervised visitation cases.

Learn more about how alcohol and substance abuse affect Texas child custody here.

How do Texas courts feel about supervised visitation?

The state of Texas believes it is best for children to maintain a relationship with both parents whenever possible. Texas family courts take supervised visitation very seriously, and judges won’t order supervision unless a child’s physical or emotional health is in jeopardy.

Every time a judge puts supervised possession in place, the court knows they will be hearing from these parents over and over again. What the court really wants is for the parents to get along and amicably coparent, instead of clogging up the court’s docket with hearing after hearing.

Parents need to understand at the beginning, that every single time they go back to court, the court is trying to realign the parties and remove the need for a supervisor. From the family court’s viewpoint, supervised access is not the endgame—rehabilitating the parent so he or she can successfully coparent is the goal.

Our Fort Worth family law attorneys can answer your questions about supervised visitation in Tarrant County

If you’re wondering how to stop supervised visitation—or initiate supervision—it’s essential to speak with an attorney experienced in handling supervised custody cases. Depending on your case, our divorce lawyers in Fort Worth, TX may be able to prevent (or secure) supervision in the first place or guide you on how to jump through necessary hoops if you’ve lost unsupervised access to your child.

To schedule a confidential case review with our founder Fort Worth divorce lawyer Justin Sisemore, contact our firm by phone at (817) 336-4444 or connect with us online.

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