No parent wants someone scrutinizing their parenting or how they handle their kids. But supervised parenting time is a reality for many parents for a variety of reasons – and it’s something the courts assign when they believe doing so will protect the children.
To begin with, I’d like to define the difference between Supervised Parenting Time and Supervised Therapeutic Parenting Time. The latter term is also known as Reintegration Therapy, Reunification Therapy or Family Therapy.
Defining Supervised Parenting Time
I’ll start with Supervised Parenting Time. Supervised Parenting Time occurs when a parent has exhibited behaviors that could be threatening or endangering to their children, and the court decides that it would be better for the kids to have a responsible adult nearby when they spend time with their parent. Such situations might be due to substance abuse, or physical and emotional abuse toward the children.
It’s rare to make Supervised Parenting Time a permanent situation. Most cases eventually resolve and, when the parent is deemed better able to parent wisely, the court may end the mandate for supervision.
In cases of sexual abuse of children, a parent should probably never have unsupervised time with their children again! But even physical and mental abuse raise questions about the safety of the children with that parent who perpetuated the abuse.
When CPS substantiates such claims – which is rare, as they’re hard to prove – there will need to be similar evidence down the line that the parent has ceased their abusive ways and is capable of parenting without inflicting violence on their children.
So where does Supervised Parenting Time take place, and who supervises?
First, there are centers where parents and children can spend their time together like IMPACT or Pontiac Parenting Time. These locations have staff, who are often social workers, that oversee parenting time. There are toys and games and comfortable spaces, and it’s not that expensive.
Or, a parent can make it more natural by hiring a licensed mental health therapist to accompany them during Parenting Time, either in their home or at the park or bowling alley or a restaurant.
That’s the ideal – they can write reports, keep notes, provide documentation, and they are a more credible source than asking a family member to supervise. With an unbiased, third-party supervisor, it becomes easier to get back unsupervised parenting time because they have no stake in their testimony. They keep objective records.
When family members serve as the supervisors, it complicates everything. It complicates the children’s relationship with whichever relative is now serving as the supervisor for time with their parent. A paid supervisor also helps the parent not feel resentful or scrutinized or judged by a relative.
Ok, so now that we understand what Supervised Parenting Time is, let’s define therapeutic parenting time.
Defining Therapeutic Parenting Time
This is when a parent and their children do therapy together, in a therapist’s office, to work through issues. The most important thing here is that the parent listens and validates their child’s concerns, takes accountability for their actions, apologizes, and doesn’t blame other people for the breakdown.
The parent must also demonstrate to the child ways that they will make changes. I had one parent who took a bunch of parenting classes and worked with a parenting coach, and they let their child know this is the plan I am working on, I’m working on strategies not to yell, etc.
Usually, a family therapist will recommend a gradual transition into unsupervised parenting time outside the office and how to get back on track for unsupervised parenting time.
How common is Therapeutic Parenting Time?
Actually, pretty common. It definitely happens more frequently than people realize. Sometimes it’s because there’s a breakdown in the parent-child relationship. Often times it’s a teenager, who is on a “refuse-resist cycle”, where they’re refusing or resisting to go to the other parent’s home.
A lot of people think, when a kid turns 16, they don’t have to go to the other parent’s house. They believe they have choice in how the parenting time plays out.
It’s not true, and it won’t hold up in court! Until they are 18, kids don’t get a say in parenting time details and schedules. If they resist or refuse, or if a parent tells them they are not obligated to go to the other parent, the court will most likely send them to a family therapist to work it out.
That’s a good thing because what a lot of kids are doing is harboring resentment or anger toward a parent and then avoiding the problem by avoiding the parent. That does not teach the child problem-solving or relationship skills, which they will need in life!
Also, sadly, there are plenty of times where parental alienation plays a role in some of this, where relationships are threatened by parental alienation. That’s when one parent deliberately attempts to distance their child from their other parent. When this happens, it is very helpful for an objective family therapist to assist the child in understanding what is happening to them and helping them stay connected positively to the parent they are being alienated against.
It can be very frustrating as a parent to be told by the Court they can only see their child under these supervision conditions and certainly causes quite a bit of stress. Yet, my advice is to follow the Court Orders and the recommendations of supervisors and therapists. They are there to help you and your child, not to hurt you. Professionals in the field want nothing more than to see a repaired relationship between parents and children!