Parents have a right to spend time with their child even if they are no longer together. However, a court can terminate that right if the parent is unfit or the court finds that it is in the child’s best interest.

Courts may also restrict visitation by requiring supervised visitation. In this case, the court requires a third party to monitor or “supervise” the visitation between the non-custodial parent and the child. 

The court often chooses child care professionals or social workers to supervise visitation. However, there are some cases in which the court might allow a family member to supervise visitation. When a family member supervises visitation, the judge sets conditions that all parties must follow during the visitation. 

What Does the Supervisor Do During the Visitation?

Visitation generally occurs at a neutral location, but it could occur in the parent or child’s home. The supervisor does not engage the child or participate in activities during the visitation. The sole purpose of the supervision is to protect the child’s wellbeing.

The supervisor only intervenes during the visitation if the parent’s conduct threatens the child’s safety. Otherwise, the supervisor observes the parent-child interaction and makes notes regarding the parent’s conduct and attitude. The supervisor may also make notes about how the child relates to the parent during visitation.

Why Does the Court Order Supervised Visitation?

Supervised visitation can be ordered in cases involving allegations of:

  • Domestic abuse
  • Child abuse
  • Neglect
  • Drug abuse
  • Alcohol abuse

According to OCGA §19-9-7, the judge may also order a parent to attend a certified family violence intervention program. Attendance would be a condition of parenting time or visitation. The judge may also order the parent to abstain from consuming drugs and alcohol for 24 hours before the scheduled visitation.

The parent whose visitation is supervised may be ordered to pay a fee for the supervised visitation costs. Judges may also require the parent to post a bond for the child’s safety and the child’s return if the visitation is not supervised. 

The statute gives the judge the ability to impose any conditions on visitation that the court deems necessary to protect the child.

In cases involving family violence, the judge may order that the address of the victim and the child be kept confidential. In those cases, the judge may order the child to be exchanged in a protected setting if it declines to order supervised visitation.

Victims of family violence are protected from attending joint counseling. Judges cannot order a victim of family violence to participate in joint counseling with the perpetrator as a condition of receiving custody of the child.

Can the Court Order Alternatives to Supervised Visitation?

There are instances in which the judge may find that supervised visitation is not necessary, but the facts of the case require some modifications to traditional parenting time or visitation. 

As an alternative to ordering supervised visitation, the judge may order that the parent may only visit with the child during the daytime. In addition, the court could require the parent to provide details of the visitation to the custodial parent ahead of visitation, such as where the parent and child will be during the visitation. 

The court may restrict where the parent can take the child during visitation. A judge may find that the duration of visitation should be gradually increased instead of allowing standard visitation.

Can I Prevent My Child’s Other Parent From Obtaining Visitation?

In most cases, the court views visitation with the non-custodial parent as being in the child’s best interest. Children benefit from having both parents in their lives. Therefore, the court will generally grant visitation unless you can prove the parent is unfit or prohibiting visitation is in the child’s best interest. 

Proving a parent is unfit can be difficult. Your testimony alone may not be sufficient to convince a judge that your child’s other parent should not be able to spend time with their child. 

You may need affidavits from other individuals to support your claims of unfitness. Testimony from teachers, doctors, coaches, and psychologists can be critical pieces of evidence used to restrict visitation.

However, be careful that you do not actively try to alienate your child from their other parent. Parental alienation can be used to argue fitness. Your desire to restrict visitation could be used against you if you cross the line by trying to turn your child against their other parent.