Any divorce involving children must focus on what’s in the children’s best interests, especially as it relates to custody and parenting time. In general, unless the children are in some sort of danger, the approach will be to allow for quality time with both parents. The two most common arrangements are that the parents have joint physical custody with relatively equal parenting time, or one has sole physical custody and the other has scheduled parenting time. In situations in which the children might be in real danger, a court can order that a parent not have any parenting time at all, but this approach is reserved for extreme circumstances.
However, the state of Minnesota has another approach for certain situations, in which the children have visitation in a highly structured, supervised setting at a safe facility. An investigative report a couple years ago shone light on the drawbacks of this system — standards at the facilities are lax, and there is no licensing or training system for the people who supervise visits between parents and children — but these facilities do provide an essential option for families whose situations don’t allow for unsupervised visitation. Supervised parenting time can sometimes be supervised by a friend or family member in situations where an appropriate supervisor can be identified or agree upon by the parties.
Supervised visitation and other types of limited visitation options, like other aspects of divorce, are intended to provide what’s best for the children given the family’s particular circumstances. Families in which domestic abuse has been a problem will often have supervised visitation. This is also the case if the non-custodial parent suffers from mental illness, has been incarcerated or has struggled with drugs or alcohol. There might also be situations in which the children have expressed feelings of unease about being around their non-custodial parent.
Any of these are situations in which the parent might not be a genuine danger to the children, but unsupervised visits might put the children in danger depending on the parent’s behavior. Supervised visitation winds up being safer for everyone and allows the children to spend time with their other parent.
If you have questions about Minnesota’s custody and visitation laws or if you want to better understand supervised visitation speak, with an experienced Washington County family law attorney at Appelhof, Pfeifer & Hart today.
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