Parents who are going through separation or divorce will need to devise a plan that specifies where their children will reside, who will care for them, how often they will spend time with each parent, and under what conditions they will be permitted to visit with each parent. This plan is often referred to as a “parenting plan“. In some cases the parents can create a parenting plan that is agreed upon by both parties, while in other instances the parents need the help of the court to determine the best parenting plan for their circumstances.
Types of Child Custody
There are two types of child custody:
- Legal Custody: The individuals who have legal custody for your children are the people who are allowed to make important decisions about the education, health and welfare of your children. Legal custody can be joint, where both parents share the right and responsibility to make decisions about the children; or sole, where the decisions are left up to one parent.
- Physical Custody: Physical custody refers to who your children live with. Parents can have joint custody, which means that the children live with both parents, or one parent can have sole or primary custody, which means that the children reside with one parent most of the time and visit the other parent.
In most situations, a judge will award both parents legal custody, but only one parent will be awarded physical custody. When this occurs, a guideline for visitation is typically created to ensure that the children receive safe and adequate time with the parent who does not have physical custody.
Types of Visitation Orders
Visitation orders can vary significantly, depending on the unique circumstances of all who are involved. When visitation orders are created things like the best interest of the children, the schedules of the parents and a wide variety of other factors are considered. The most common types of visitation orders include:
- Scheduled Visitation: Many people choose to follow a visitation schedule to help prevent conflict and make organization easier. Scheduled visitation details which dates the children will spend time with each parent. Holidays, weekends and special occasions are typically taken into consideration when creating a visitation schedule.
- Reasonable Visitation: Parents who are able to communicate well and be flexible often choose reasonable visitation. This type of visitation enables parents to work out visitation times between them in order to fit their unique circumstances.
- Supervised Visitation: In some situations it is determined that the children's safety and well-being could be in danger if they are left unsupervised with the visiting parent. When this occurs, visits are supervised by the custodial parent, another adult or an agency.
- No Visitation: In the event that visitation with the non-custodial parent would cause emotional or physical harm to the children even with supervision, no visitation is granted.
When to Consider Supervised Visitation
While we would all like to think that adequate time with both parents is in the best interest of the children, this simply isn't always the case. Sometimes allowing your children to spend unsupervised time with your co-parent can be detrimental to their physical or emotional well-being. It is then that supervised visitation should be considered. Some factors to consider in order to determine if supervised visitation should be required include:
- History or suspicion of child abuse, neglect or molestation
- History of poor parenting choices
- History or allegations of drug or alcohol abuse
- No prior relationship between the child and the co-parent
- Previous conflicts or outbursts in the relationship
- History of mental illness that could prove harmful to the children
- High probability of abduction
It is essential for you to remember that the best interests of your children should always be first and foremost when making the decision to request supervised visitation. Requests should never be made simply to strike out at or cause harm to the co-parent.
How to Request Supervised Visitation
If you suspect that allowing unsupervised visitation with the co-parent might be harmful to your children, it is vital that you take the necessary steps to ensure their safety as quickly as possible. Your lawyer can assist you with filing the required paperwork to request that the court order supervised visitation.
About the Author: This is a guest post by Jennifer Caughey, on behalf of Toronto divorce lawyers, Fine & Associates.