Supervised Visitation in New Jersey Custody Hearings

New Jersey Statutes (NJS) 2A: 12-7 States: 

Legislative Findings and Declarations
  a. In the area of child visitation a court often orders 
supervised visitation where there has been a history of child abuse, medical
disabilities, psychiatric problems or other situations where the 
safety and welfare of the child may be jeopardized.

Contrary to many parents belief supervised visitation is not awarded because of one parent’s subjective feelings about the other parent’s parenting skills. Supervised visitation is generally limited to situations, as described above, where a judge is persuaded (with evidence) that the non-custodial parent may endanger the child if they are left alone with them – hence the need for supervised visitation. Examples of situations where supervised visitation is appropriate are:

  • The non-custodial parent has physically or emotionally harmed the child in the past. Documentation of the harm is the best evidence.

  • The non-custodial parent has a history of substance abuse. There is genuine concern that they may end up getting “high” while the child is in their custody and control.
  • The n0n-custodial parent has exhibited extremely poor parenting skills in the past which raise a genuine concern for the child’s safety while they are in that parent’s custody. The custodial parent must be able to document past episodes of objectively harmful behavior.

When it is ordered supervised visitation can take place at an informal location such as the custodial parent’s home, or at a third party’s home. Supervised visitation can also take place at the courthouse, or at a designated social services agency approved by the State. The visitation usually takes place for a designated window of time – usually 1-2 hours.

Supervised visitation usually continues for a matter of months, not years. As the situation and contact between the non-custodial parent and the child improves the non-custodial parent can request that the court modify the terms of the visitation order to provide for more extended, and less restrictive parenting time. Of course, if the situation does not improve the supervised aspect of the parenting time will continue.

It should be understood that supervised visitation is not awarded easily. If the custodial parent only has a subjective belief that the non-custodial parent is not the “best” parent, or that the non-custodial parent could improve their parenting skills, that, standing alone, is not enough proof to have a court order supervised visitation. Supervised visitation is reserved for very serious concerns that the non-custodial parent will intentionally or unintentionally harm the child if they are left alone without a third-party overseeing their interaction.

I have been representing clients in divorce, custody, visitation, and support cases for over 20 years. My clients are principally residents of Bergen, Hudson, Essex, Passaic and Union counties. If you have any questions about supervised visitation, or other family law related issues you can contact me directly at 201-731-3086 or via e-mail using the contact form. The consultation is free of charge.