Utah Code 30-3-34.5: Supervised Parent-Time
1. Considering the fundamental liberty interests of parents and children, it is the policy of this state that divorcing parents have unrestricted and unsupervised access to their children. When necessary to protect a child and no less restrictive means is reasonably available however, a court may order supervised parent-time if the court finds evidence that the child would be subject to physical or emotional harm or child abuse, as described in Section 76-5-109, from the noncustodial parent if left unsupervised with the noncustodial parent.
2. A court that orders supervised parent-time shall give preference to persons suggested by the parties to supervise, including relatives. If the court finds that the persons suggested by the parties are willing to supervise, and are capable of protecting the children from physical or emotional harm, or child abuse, the court shall authorize the persons to supervise parent-time.
3. If the court is unable to authorize any persons to supervise parent-time pursuant to Subsection (2), the court may require that the noncustodial parent seek the services of a professional individual or agency to exercise their supervised parent-time.
4. At the time supervised parent-time is imposed, the court shall consider:
a. whether the cost of professional or agency services is likely to prevent the noncustodial parent from exercising parent-time; and
b. whether the requirement for supervised parent-time should expire after a set period of time.
5. The court shall, in its order for supervised parent-time, provide specific goals and expectations for the noncustodial parent to accomplish before unsupervised parent-time may be granted. The court shall schedule one or more follow-up hearings to revisit the issue of supervised parent-time.
6. A noncustodial parent may, at any time, petition the court to modify the order for supervised parent-time if the noncustodial parent can demonstrate that the specific goals and expectations set by the court in Subsection (5) have been accomplished.
How Supervised Visitation Works for Families
Supervised visitation is when a parent is only allowed to visit with their child under the supervision of another individual, such as a family member or a social worker. The visit may take place at the parent’s home or in a designated visitation facility, such as a child care center. Judges typically order supervised visitation when the visiting parent’s fitness is in question, such as in the event of prior alcohol or substance misuse, or if there have been allegations of abuse or domestic violence. The purpose of supervised visitation is to ensure that parents have an opportunity to maintain contact with their children in a structured environment that is both safe and comfortable for the child.
How Supervised Visits Work
Typically, the visiting parent will need to report to the designated visitation center to visit with the child, or the judge will arrange for the child to be delivered to the parent’s home. In both cases, the judge will specify who is to supervise the sessions. Many times, a counselor or social worker supervises contact and ensures that the parent visits with the child in a controlled setting.
For How Long Are Supervised Visits Typically Ordered?
A judge may order supervised visitation temporarily or indefinitely. If there are allegations of abuse or domestic violence, a judge may order that visitation with the accused parent be supervised until the allegations are fully investigated. Judges take allegations of abuse or violence seriously and will investigate these allegations fully. If a judge has already determined that a parent is not fit for custody, the judge can still allow visitation on an ongoing basis, but require that the visitation is supervised in a controlled setting. In these cases, visitation will remain supervised until the parent can demonstrate that there has been a change in circumstances, such as attendance in a drug rehabilitation program, which impacts the parent’s fitness.
Do Parents Have to Return to Court to Change the Order or Does It Expire?
Once a judge has determined custody and visitation through a court order, the order remains in place until a parent can demonstrate that there has been a change in circumstances. A change in circumstances can be one parent’s decision to move, a parent’s successful completion of rehabilitation or counseling, or other changes that impact a parent’s suitability. The parent who wishes to change the court order must return to court and request that the agreement is modified to reflect the change in circumstances.
What Else Should Parents Know?
Parents should understand that supervised visitation is designed to protect the safety of children, while also allowing parents to maintain contact with their children. If you are a parent whose visitation is supervised, consider how you can demonstrate your fitness to a judge. If the other parent has accused you of abuse or domestic violence, you should cooperate with any investigation ordered by the judge. In addition, if you are a parent who is worried about the safety of your child in the presence of the other parent, you should inform the judge of this immediately.
Supervised visitation is when the non-custodial parent can visit with the child only when supervised by another adult. It is used to keep the child safe, while supporting the parent–child relationship. Supervised visitation is different from supervised exchanges, which protect parents from each other and prevent the child from witnessing conflict. If supervised visitation is necessary, the court will order it and it will be part of the parenting plan. The parents may also need to make a visitation schedule so that the supervised visits can happen.
When Supervised Visitation Is Necessary
Supervised visitation may be necessary when:
• There has been physical, sexual, or emotional abuse of the child by a parent
• There has been physical, sexual, or emotional abuse of one parent by the other parent
• A parent has a substance abuse problem
• A parent has an uncontrolled mental illness that poses harm to the child
• There is risk of kidnapping or abduction by one of the parents
• A parent has neglected the child
• A parent has been absent from the child’s life and wants to start a relationship with the child
• There have been any potentially dangerous family situations
Often, supervised visitation is a temporary arrangement that can lead to unsupervised visitation if the non-custodial parent meets certain requirements. For example, the non-custodial parent may need to have six months of clean drug tests, seek counseling, or complete an anger management class in order to be awarded unsupervised visits.
In Utah, parents who are no longer married or not living together share parenting of their minor children. Sometimes they share equally and sometimes disproportionately with one of the parents possibly due to work schedules or maybe, because one parent is not as involved with the minor children as the other parent. Typically, each parent makes day-to-day decisions while he or she is exercising parenting time. However, there are times when a parent may feel that supervised parenting time is necessary. This is unusual, and results from Utah law seeking to protect minor children. In such situations, the Court may issue temporary or permanent orders which will require a third party (usually a mental health professional or social worker but could be a family member) to monitor the interaction between a parent and minor child during parenting time. The supervisor maintains a record of what transpired during the parenting time and submits reports. These reports are often valuable in evaluating the ongoing need for supervision. Most commonly, requests for supervised visitation occur in the context of allegations of drug abuse, alcoholism, severe mental illness, and/or physical or sexual abuse. Domestic violence in relation to others may not be a basis for requiring supervision. The need for supervision is focused on the protection of the minor child. The party believing that supervision is necessary must file a petition seeking supervision, either on a temporary or permanent basis. In order to prevail, it must be shown that the minor child needs the protection and the evidence supporting this extraordinary relief is often police reports or medical records supporting the argument that the parent has a drug or alcohol history, mental illness or abuse has occurred. Supervision may be a useful tool where a parent has had no (or limited) contact with the minor child for an extended period and either the minor child or parent feels more comfortable with a neutral third present to assist with reunification. There are several pitfalls in seeking supervised parenting time if it is a tactic to paint the other parent as “bad”. First, there is the emotional harm that may occur to the minor child. Second, the courts will see through thinly veiled attempts to discredit the other parent (where no basis exists). And third, our statutes require that the Court consider which parent is more likely to allow the child frequent, meaningful and continuing contact with the other parent. Obviously, seeking supervision where no basis exists reflects poorly on the party seeking supervision. Supervised parenting time is an important tool to protect children that may be harmed. But using this tool without justification is risky to both parents and the child. Supervision should not be used as a litigation tactic. It should be used only where absolutely necessary to protect a child.
When Is Supervised Visitation Necessary?
Anytime a judge thinks that a parent might not be able to provide safe supervision for their child, supervised visitation might be ordered. The main priority in any child custody case is meeting the needs of the child. While in most cases, it is beneficial for a child to spend time with their non-custodial parent, the physical and emotional safety of the child must always be considered. So in certain cases, in order to ensure that the child is safe, visitation might need to be supervised.
There are several types of situations that might warrant supervised visitation. They include (but are not limited to)
• A history of child abuse: In some cases of child abuse, the parent will not be able to have contact with the child at all. In other cases, however, supervised visitation might be an option.
• A history of domestic violence: If one parent has physically abused the other parent or someone else in the household, they might be ordered to have only supervised visits with the child. This is the case even if the parent never abused the child at all.
• A substance abuse issue: A parent who is currently struggling with an addiction to any type of substance (generally drugs or alcohol) is not usually able to provide a safe place for their child and will often be offered only supervised visits.
• A history of neglect or abandonment: If a parent has neglected their child or who has abandoned him or her, supervised visits are often advised to be sure the child is both physically and emotionally safe.
• Severe mental illness or mental disability: If a parent is not mentally stable, they might require supervised visits to be sure that the child is safe.
• The threat of child abduction: A parent who has attempted to or threatened to abduct the child or keep them from their other parent might find that they are no longer allowed to have unsupervised visitation.
What Can I Do If I Don’t Think My Child Is Safe?
If you are afraid that your child is unsafe while in the care of his or her other parent, it is important to contact the court and let them know. A guardian ad litem (GAL) might be assigned to your case. This is an individual who will be assessing both your interactions and your ex’s interactions with the child. He or she might interview others who know one or both of you, as well. In an emergency situation, such as if your child’s other parent has abused your child; you should call the police to file a report. They will contact the Department of Children and Families (or the equivalent agency in your state). You can also contact the agency yourself. Once this is done, both parents will be investigated and the agency can go back to the court to have the custody agreement modified if necessary. A lawyer or a legal resource group like National Family Solutions can help you determine what to do and what agencies you need to help you keep your child safe.
What Can I Do If My Visits Are Supervised?
If you have been assigned only supervised visits with your child, attend your visitation as ordered. Show up each time, barring illness or extenuating circumstances. The most important thing is that you continue to create a bond with your child, and having supervised visits will allow that to happen. Sometimes, supervised visits will be permanent. In this case, look forward to your visits and be creative when it comes to making plans with your child. If allowed, you can ask the social worker to supervise your visits while you take your child to get ice cream or even to go somewhere like a zoo. If that is not allowed or you are not able to do that, play new games and think of fun and inexpensive crafts and other activities the two of you can enjoy together. In other cases, you might be able to one day have unsupervised visits. For this to happen, you will need to follow a plan given to you by a judge. You might need to show that you have not used substances in the last 60 days, for example, or you might need to find a new apartment in a safer area. If you have abused your child, you might need to complete an anger management program. Do whatever you need to in order to gain unsupervised visits, if possible.
Terms Used In Utah Code 30-3-34.5
• Evidence: Information presented in testimony or in documents that is used to persuade the fact finder (judge or jury) to decide the case for one side or the other.
• State: when applied to the different parts of the United States, includes a state, district, or territory of the United States.
Divorce Attorney In Utah
When it’s time for divorce, please call Ascent Law LLC for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you.
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West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States
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