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Supervised Contact Services – Ins and Outs

Introduction 

When going through a parenting dispute, it is not uncommon for parties to make allegations against one another. These allegations may suggest that one parent is a risk to the other parent, the children, or sometimes both. In these situations, it is often suggested that the “at-risk” parent should spend supervised time with the children (whether justifiably, or not). 

This post will explore: –

  1. The nature of supervised contact services.
  2. The types of supervised contact available.
  3. What it means for you and your case, should you be required to spend supervised time with your children.
  4. The alternatives to supervised time.
  5. The pros and cons of supervised time.

** Nothing in this post is intended to serve as legal advice. Rather, it is a broad overview of supervised time written by someone who practices regularly in the family law jurisdiction, and therefore has a frontline understanding of what it involves.

** At the bottom of this post you will find links to Contact Service providers, both private and publicly funded services.

The Nature of Supervised Contact 

Supervised contact involves a parent spending time with their children, supervised by an impartial 3rd party (the “supervisor”).

The supervisor will observe all the interactions between the parent and their children during the visitation period. The supervisor will then prepare a written report, which can serve as evidence in a Court case.

The supervisor will report on the activities which the parent and children are involved in; how the children appear to respond to the parent they are spending time with; any comments the parent makes during their visit with the children (for example, if the parent is heard to criticise the other parent during the visit, this is likely to be noted by the supervisor).

Types of Services Available 

Supervised contact can occur through private or public services.

For private services the fees will be more expensive, ranging from around $70 – $100 per hour, with services often requiring a minimum of 2 to 3 hours. The benefit of private services is that wait-times are usually non-existent, meaning a parent can commence spending supervised time with their children almost immediately.

For public services, the fees will be considerably less, however the wait times are often extensive. It is not uncommon to have to wait between 2 – 3 months before commencing supervised time under a publicly funded contact service.

Also, public services will commonly require the parent to spend time with the children in an actual contact centre – that is, a large room or hall filled with activities that the parent can do with the children (I.e. video games, toys, drawing and the like). Whereas a private contact service allows the parent to nominate a venue ahead of time and spend time with the children in that way. For example, a parent may choose a shopping centre as the nominated venue, and the parent will then be free to roam with the children and the supervisor in the centre. 

What it means for you and your case 

If it has been suggested that you spend supervised time with your children, it does not mean that you are a “risk” and therefore that supervised time is even warranted (though, it will depend on the circumstances in which supervised time came about – that is, whether it was by agreement with the other party, or after judicial determination). In many situations, it may only mean that supervised time is an appropriate, temporary arrangement in while allegations are tested and awaiting their finalisation.

It is not uncommon for me to encourage clients to see it as a temporary measure, as difficult as a reality as that is sometimes is to bear.

Ultimately, in these situations, some time with your children is better than no time at all.

It enables the parent to continue the relationship with their children, and could allow you to disprove any allegation or suggestion that they otherwise pose a risk to the children.

Alternatives to supervised time 

An alternative to being supervised by an impartial 3rd party is to agree to be supervised by someone who is known to the children, for example a family friend or close relative.

A benefit of this arrangement is that the parent will not be out of pocket having to pay for privately supervised time, or be in an extensive wait-list. However, there may be difficulties with finding a suitable 3rd party – that is, one who is willing to give up their time to be a supervisor – and there is also the difficulty of them being continually available. Further, it is not uncommon for a parent to be concerned that the supervisor is not completely impartial, particularly in circumstances when the suggested supervisor is someone close to the other parent (i.e. grandparent; uncle; aunty on the other parent’s side of the family).

In these scenarios, it is common for the nominated supervisor to sign and make an Undertaking (a legally enforceable promise) to the Court that they will supervise the time between the parent and children, and give notice to the other parent if anything of concern happens during the supervised visits.

Pros & Cons 

Pros

  1. It enables the parent to continue (or restore) their relationship with the children, whilst allegations are yet to be determined.
  2. Having supervised reports (independent evidence) are a powerful way to disprove allegations being levelled against the parent.
  3. The children are able to engage in playful activities during their time with the parent, creating positive memories.

Cons

  1. Can be costly, especially if going down the private route.
  2. The parent being unsupervised may be uncomfortable with being “watched”, and therefore not be as natural in their interactions with the children.
  3. Long wait-lists, especially if going down the public route. 

Final comments 

Each case is different, and while supervised time is appropriate in one case, it may not be so in another.

I hope this post provided you with a useful overview of supervised time in the context of Family Law, parenting matters.

If you need further advice about this or any other family law related issue, feel free to contact me for assistance by email at hello@fuenteslegal.com.au or 0406 111 992 for a no-obligation discussion.

Below I have included links to some useful, reputable supervised contact service providers that my clients frequently use. 

Supervised contact service providers

Private services

  1. Phoenix Rising
  2. Children in Focus
  3. Holding Hands

Public services

  1. Interrelate
  2. Relationships Australia
  3. Catholic Care

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