There are some circumstances where a child’s time with their parent (or extended family such as grandparents) will need to be supervised.
The paramount consideration in the determination of parenting orders is what is in the best interests of the child. There are two primary considerations that the court must consider:
Firstly, the child’s right to a meaningful relationship with both parents; and
Secondly, the child’s right to be protected from harm, abuse, neglect or possible violence.
Understandably, the second consideration is given greater weight.
Where a court considers that a parent could pose an “unacceptable risk” of harm to the child, it may make an order that the child is to spend no time with that parent.
If there are concerns regarding the child’s welfare in the care of the other parent, this may require that child to spend supervised time with that parent until concerns regarding the child’s welfare have been addressed, such as through counselling or through a post-separation parenting course – or other means just as programs for anger management, drug or alcohol abuse.
Parents may agree informally between themselves that supervised time is to take place.
Friends and family may supervise time between the parent and their child if this is mutually agreed between both parties or court ordered. However, time supervised by a friend or family member may not be an ideal situation for everyone, especially where an appropriate supervisor cannot be identified or agreed. It is crucial that the time between the parent and child is relaxed and comfortable, and for that reason it is generally appropriate for the supervisor to be a trusted relative or friend of the parent to be supervised. Often parents focus on their personal dislike of a potential supervisor, but the focus needs to be on that person’s capacity to provide the required supervision. Supervising time requires a substantial commitment by the supervisor, and so it is essential that the potential supervisor is willing and able to commit to the supervision.
If a supervisor cannot be agreed between the parties, a contact centre can assist supervision of a parent’s time. Parties are required to undertake an intake assessment whereby the centre assesses the suitability of the service they provide to each particular case and proposed arrangement. Given the high demand for these services, parties are usually placed in a waiting list before supervised time can be commenced.
In the event that the parents cannot reach an agreement regarding how the child will spend time with the other parent, then the matter may proceed to Court.
The Court considers the facts of the case and apply the principles of the Family Law Act prior to making Orders on the children’s time with the other parent.
The Court may make an Order that a child spend supervised time in circumstances where there are allegations of family violence, drug or alcohol use, abuse, neglect or harm or there is a risk that a child may be abducted if they are left in the care of the other parent. Supervised time may also be required if the child is being introduced or re-introduced to the other parent whom they have spent little time with previously.
If there is high conflict between the parties then there are some circumstances where it will be appropriate that the changeover between the child and parent will need to be supervised. Changeover is the term used when the child is being collected or dropped off by one parent to the other parent.
Whether the changeover alone needs to be supervised or the time that the child spends with a parent that needs to be supervised, the supervisor may be required to prepare a summary or report of their observations during the child’s time with the other parent. The report will provide some guidance on whether supervised contact is required for the long-term, or whether there are any risks observed. If the parenting matter goes to Court, this report may be reviewed by the Judge or other stakeholders who may provide recommendations on the long-term arrangements for the child.
Determining whether the supervised time is required will depend on the specific set of circumstances in your case. We welcome you to contact Freedom Law to arrange an initial obligation free appointment.