Under normal circumstances, parents are able to decide who will be with them when they spend time with their children. Sometimes, though, in very rare and exceptional circumstances, courts can require that a parent’s time with his or her children be supervised.
Reasons for supervision
The court has decided that there are certain exceptional circumstances which would justify the need to impose a supervisor on a parent’s time with his or her children. These include:
- Long term harassment and harmful behaviours towards the custodial parent causing that parent and the child stress and or fear;
- A history of violence; unpredictable, uncontrollable behaviour; alcohol, drug abuse which has been witnessed by the child and/or presents a risk to the child’s safety and well-being;
- Extreme parental alienation which has resulted in changes of custody and, at times, no access orders to the former custodial parent;
- Ongoing severe denigration of the other parent;
- Lack of relationship or attachment between noncustodial parent and child;
- Neglect or abuse to a child on the access visits; and,
- Older children’s wishes and preferences to terminate access
This list is not absolute. The overarching theme, though, is that parents must protect the best interests of the children, including their physical, emotional, mental and spiritual well-being, and if there is reason to believe that a parent cannot accomplish this, a supervisor may be warranted.
Who should supervise?
When supervision is ordered, there are several options available as to who will supervise. There are professional supervision services which will assign an employee to accompany the parent on his or her parenting or access visits, as well as individuals who provide such services. There are several advantages to using a professional supervisor: he or she will be trained and neutral, and the professional will be able to provide a written report on the party’s interactions with the children. Unfortunately, professional supervision services are also very expensive, and there are often limits on when that supervision can take place. Finally, courts have acknowledged that supervision can create an “artificial” atmosphere to the parenting time or access, and that is accentuated when the supervisor is a stranger to the child.
Supervision can also be provided by a relative or person who knows the parent and the children. This has the making the access or parenting visits more comfortable for the child and for the parent. Additionally, a friend or family member will often provide their services for free and may be available when a professional supervisor is not. The disadvantage of a non-professional supervisor is that he or she may be seen as biased towards the person being supervised; in other words, that he or she may not stop the supervised parent from behaviour endangering the children’s interests.
How Long Should Supervision Last?
The Court has found that an order for indefinite supervised access, providing neither transition to unsupervised access nor a fixed review date should be made only in rare circumstances. The Court has also found that if there is an order for supervision that does not provide for an end date or a review, the supervised parent can ask to change the terms of the access in the future if he or she can show that there has been a material change in circumstances. (Merkand v. Merkand,  O.J. No. 528 (C.A.), leave to appeal refused,  S.C.C.A. No. 117)
Talk to Us
This post is quite general in its scope, and deals with the broad issues involved in supervision. Each case is different, though, and our lawyers have the knowledge and expertise to be able to help you determine what should happen in your situation. If you are facing orders for supervised parenting time or supervised access, or you believe that supervised access or parenting time should be ordered, please contact Henderson Heinrichs LLP (toll-free at 1-844-669-3500, or through our website) to make an appointment to talk to one of our family lawyers. We offer a free half hour initial consultation meeting.