Therapeutic Supervised Visitation
When it comes to divorce, most couples agree that tending to the needs of the children is the highest priority in all decision-making. The New Jersey Family Part court system is in accord; it holds children’s interests as the central consideration over any other in the divorce proceedings.
Depending on the circumstances surrounding the divorce and the relationship a parent has with their children, it may be necessary for normal visitation rights to be preceded by what is called therapeutic supervised visitation. Therapeutic supervised visitation is the meeting of a parent with their children in the presence of a professional trained in facilitating reconciliation. This occurs when a parent has a history of child abuse or sexual abuse of the children or the safety of the children is otherwise at risk, and regular visitation may not be in the best interest of the physical and emotional stability and wellbeing of the children.
New Jersey public policy holds that, following a divorce, a judge of the New Jersey Family Part will do their best to ensure that each parent has frequent and regular contact with their children. While this is ideal, it is not always in the child’s best interest. A mental health professional trained in therapeutic supervised visitation will provide constructive feedback to the visiting parent in support of reconciliation. In a later court proceeding, the New Jersey Family Part judge will interview the children to determine whether they feel safe to continue with regular visitation.
As happened in the case of C.H.G. v. G.C.R, after multiple attempts at therapeutic supervised visitation, both children testified that their living arrangement with their father and stepmother was preferred to opening any regular visitation with their mother, who had physically abused them both. They were concerned that regularly scheduled visits would turn into overnight visits, which could lead to more abuse or an attempt by the mother to seek custody, disrupting the rhythm that had been established in the new living situation.
When is therapeutic supervised visitation appropriate?
There are very specific scenarios in which it is appropriate to have therapeutic supervised visitation as part of the divorce and custody proceedings. When allegations of child abuse or sexual abuse have led to a police investigation, there will almost definitely be therapeutic supervised visitations, in order that the mental health professional assigned to the case can monitor the relationship between parent and children and ensure that the children are and feel safe in the presence of the parent.
While the primary role of the professionals present at the visits is to ensure the safety of the child and monitor the visits, this mental health provider can also serve as a support to the parent, offering suggestions and techniques for how to build a secure and healthy bond with their children.
Another case in which therapeutic supervised visitation may occur is when a parent has been estranged from the child for a long period of time, and it is unclear how the child might react to the reunion. Generally, in this case, the assigned mental health provider will facilitate the connection to ensure that both parties feel at home and safe in the encounter.
Finally, therapeutic supervised visitation is also common in the case of the transition of a child from the New Jersey foster care system to a permanent home. A smooth transition is an essential building block for the development of a healthy bond between adoptive parents and a child who has been immersed in the foster care system, which may likely have included much instability and emotional upheaval. Having the facilitated support of a professional can markedly impact this transition for the benefit of all involved.
What therapeutic supervised visitation is not
Therapeutic supervised visitation is not family therapy, nor is individual therapy for the involved parent. It is important that additional steps be taken to ensure the continued mental and emotional healing of the parent who is undergoing reconciliation attempts with their children as part of the custody proceeding.
Therapeutic supervised visitation is a highly specific, usually court-ordered approach to ensuring the wellbeing of a child during transitional proceedings that involve the entry or re-entry of a parent into their lives.
Contact an Experienced Therapeutic Supervised Visitation Attorney Today
At Jacobs Berger, our legal attorneys are experienced in supporting families across New Jersey in all divorce and custody matters.
Our direct approach ensures that the best interest of children is held as the first and foremost priority in the legal separation proceedings and facilitates a court-ordered therapeutic supervised visitation if necessary.