Florida law and public policy support a child’s contact with both parents when they are unmarried, separated or divorced, so long as it is in the child’s best interests. Of course, there are some situations where it could put a child’s welfare in jeopardy to spend time with a parent because that parent has troubling traits or engages in questionable behavior.
Parental actions or attributes of concern
Examples of characteristics or activities that could potentially harm a son or daughter include:
- Addiction to drugs or alcohol
- History of verbal, physical or sexual abuse or violence
- History of neglect
- Refusal to modify home for safety such as to remove a dangerous pet or remediate lead paint or asbestos
- History of criminal behavior
- Presence in parent’s home or contact with other people who may not be in the child’s best interest
- Mental health problems
- Viewing of pornography
- Failure to monitor their child’s online viewing
- Alienation of the child from the other parent
- Pattern of dishonesty, manipulation or controlling behavior
- And other, similar behavior
In this situation, supervised time-sharing is a solution available to Florida judges. In other words, the problematic parent would only have the right to visit with the child in the presence of a third party who would monitor the interactions to keep the child safe during visitation and/or during travel to and from the place of visitation (exchange monitoring).
Putting it in context
In a Florida divorce (or paternity or domestic violence proceeding) the court must determine whether to grant visitation to such a parent (Florida law calls visitation time-sharing) as part of the parenting plan. A parenting plan is a document detailing how parents will divide decision-making responsibility, custody and parenting time, including a detailed visitation schedule.
The parenting plan that the judge approves may be one the parties agreed to, one that a parent submitted or one that the court crafted.
The parenting plan becomes part of the final divorce decree and the judge must be satisfied that the arrangements are in the child’s best interests. When there is evidence that visitation with one parent could be detrimental to the child, it might be in the child’s best interest to have no contact with that parent or, in the spirit of Florida’s support of parent-child relationships, have only supervised visitation.
Nuts and bolts
At Florida State University, the Clearinghouse on Supervised Visitation is a “statewide resource on supervised visitation issues by providing technical assistance, training, and research,” according to state statute. The clearinghouse is also responsible for developing quality and safety standards for supervised visitation programs that may provide neutral third parties to supervise visitation sessions as well as facilitation of those meetings.
If circumstances change over time after the divorce is final, either parent may ask the court to change the time-sharing arrangements. For example, the request could be to remove a supervision requirement or to put one into place.
An experienced Florida attorney can provide information and guidance to any parent involved with a supervised visitation issue on either side.