Well, I wouldn’t say that supervised visitation is the norm. The situation does come up where parents are supervised. It is typically brought before the court as I noted before by way of an order to show cause. Someone brings the emergency before the court and says my children are in danger or I am in danger of being harmed by this person because of his or her mental health condition, which can be mental instability or addiction.
Once the issue is before the court, the court will often fashion a remedy, which includes supervised visitation. It’s usually not customary that a court would simply terminate all contact between a mentally impaired person or an addict for that matter with the children, because the children generally have some type of infinity for their parent. The exception to that is in cases where the parent has engaged in behavior as a result of addiction that has harmed the children. And we see that a lot in cases where the person is engaged in drug abuse; the children are aware that the parent is an addict and have started to manipulate their behavior around the addicted parent, i.e. they know when not to speak to their father because they know when he’s under the influence. Or they know when their mother is not able to care for them after school because she maybe, you know, is intoxicated. In those circumstances and when you bring that information before the court, the court is normally going to have some concerns about even supervised visitation, even though supervised visitation is the preference over no contact at all. But certainly it’s not as a pro forma sort of order that’s entered. It usually occurs only when brought before the court, and typically by way of motion not even simply by way of complaint for divorce.
Allison C. Williams is a matrimonial and family law attorney serving Short Hills New Jersey. Her practice places an emphasis on complex child welfare matters. www.familylawyersnewjersey.com.