In some Family Law cases there may be a good reason for parties themselves to agree that it is in a child's best interests to spend time with a parent under supervision rather than with the parent on their own. In other cases a court may order time to be spent with a parent under supervision. This is likely to happen in situations where there is considered to be a genuine risk of harm to the child when spending time with one of their parents or where there has been a significant breakdown of the relationship between a parent and the child.
There are different forms of supervision that may be put in place including arrangements being made for a parent to spend time with a child at a Contact Centre or for time with a child to be supervised by a close friend or family member.
A Contact Centre is an independent location set up for the purpose of supervised time and run by organisations such as Relationships Australia. There can be some benefits to one party agreeing to spend time with a child in this type of setting.
It is common for parties to agree in certain situations that a close friend or family member can supervise one parent’s time with a child. Supervision in these circumstances means that the person must be present during the contact time and available to the child if the child becomes distressed.
"The supervisor is also expected to remove the child from the care situation if the parent’s behaviour towards the child is not appropriate."
The supervisor is present as a witness to what takes place during the contact session and they may be asked in the future to report back to a court about that. The supervisor is also expected to remove the child from the care situation if the parent’s behaviour towards the child is not appropriate.
If you or your family or friends are considering acting as a supervisor or agreeing to have your time with your child supervised then we suggest that you and they should read the brochure prepared by the Legal Services Commission of South Australia, “Should I supervise contact?”.
It is important to note that supervised time is generally only intended to be used as a temporary measure while the parent undergoes courses or treatment and counselling to ensure that any apparent risk to the child is no longer a concern or to rebuild their relationship with the child before the arrangement moves forward such that they may then spend time with the child on their own.
There will of course be some cases where supervised time with the child will continue to be an appropriate arrangement for a long period of time or indefinitely if a risk to the safety of the child remains a genuine concern.
We strongly recommend that you obtain experienced legal advice before agreeing to any arrangement where your time with your child is to be supervised or if the other parent is asking a court to make orders for supervised time.