Time-sharing is a schedule of how the children will spend time with each parent. Unless otherwise notified, the court assumes that both parents are “good parents” and have no issues that affect their ability to parent their children. However, if your spouse has problems that call into question his or her ability to parent the children safely, you may need to think about a supervised or safety-focused parenting plan.
A supervised or safety-focused parenting plan provides that one parent will not have access to the children without being supervised by a third party or without strict guidelines put in place on how that parent can interact with the children.
Safety-focused parenting plans are appropriate when the children cannot be left safely with one parent without certain precautions. To simplify matters, we call the parent who does not have any issues the “non-offending parent” and the parent who does have issues the “offending parent.” Safety concerns may arise if the offending parent has a substance abuse problem, significant mental health concerns, or if he or she is abusive toward you or the children.
Supervised time-sharing may be appropriate when it is safe for the children to have time-sharing with the offending parent if a responsible adult supervises that parent’s time with the children. In some instances, the non-offending parent can be the supervisor, but usually it is an agreed-upon third party, like a family member or a trained staff member at a supervision center. If you opt to use a supervision facility, you need to consider the expense of having a professional supervise the visits and the availability of that professional and the center for time-sharing. Typically, the facility will have rules regulating how often and for how long each visit may last so it is important to consider these regulations when drafting a time-share schedule that requires a third-party supervisor.
Time-sharing under a supervised or safety focused parenting plan could state that the offending parent would be supervised by a third party, or in some circumstances, that the offending parent would have no contact with the children.
If the offending parent’s substance abuse, mental health, or other issues are so harmful that he or she is a danger to the children, it may be in the children’s best interest to have no contact with that parent until he or she seeks some sort of treatment or otherwise addresses his or her issues. If that is the case, then the non-offending parent would have the children 100 percent of the time and the offending parent would have certain tasks to complete to regain time-sharing with the children. For example, a father who has a cocaine addiction showed up high to his last supervised visitation and dropped his eight-month-old while holding him. In that example, the mother could request that the court suspend the father’s time-sharing in its entirety until the father seeks treatment for his cocaine abuse problem and submits to—and passes—random drug screens.
If your parenting plan includes supervised time-sharing or no contact with the children for the offending parent, it must also include steps that the offending parent must complete to gain unrestricted time-sharing with the children. These could include but are not limited to:
- Substance abuse treatment and random drug screens.
- Anger management treatment.
- A psychological exam.
- Parenting education.
If for instance there has been domestic violence in your family, then it may be appropriate for your spouse to participate in an anger management or a batterer intervention program or other evaluation or treatment to receive help with his or her domestic violence issues.
Finally, keep in mind that young children might not know what issues their parents have and so they may not understand why they cannot see their parent as much as they want or outside of a supervised setting. Along with provisions for the offending parent to complete, you might want to consider therapeutic counseling for your children to help them cope with these issues.
At Nicole L. Goetz, P.L. we have the knowledge and experience to guide you through the divorce process from start to finish, including establishing, enforcing or rescinding supervised or safety-focused time-sharing. If you have questions, would like to receive more information, or need an attorney to assist you during this difficult and often complicated process, please call our office in Naples, Florida at 239-325-5030 to schedule a confidential consultation with our attorneys.
The information provided on law and legal topics is designed for general information only and does not constitute nor should it be considered legal advice. It is not a substitute nor should it be considered a substitute for legal advice from a qualified attorney knowledgeable about your specific factual situation.