- by Tracy Crider
In most circumstances, a non-custodial parent’s visitation or parenting time is unsupervised. The general rule in Georgia is that non-custodial parents have the right to spend time with their children free from supervision, and in the majority of cases, this is considered to be in the best interest of all parties involved.
However, there are circumstances under which supervised visitation is warranted. Specifically, Section 19-9-7 of the Georgia Code provides that courts may award supervised visitation where the non-custodial parent has, “committed one or more acts involving family violence,” and supervision is necessary to protect the child or the custodial parent. The Court also has broad discretion in placing restrictions on visitation that is deemed necessary based on a child’s best interests. See Johnson v. Johnson, 290 Ga. 359 (2012)
Understanding Parents’ Rights Regarding Supervised Visitation
Q: What exactly is “supervised visitation”?
With supervised visitation, a non-custodial parent is given the right to spend time with his or her children within the confines of a controlled environment. The visit may be supervised by another family or household member, an acquaintance or a third-party agency – in each case subject to court approval. Generally speaking, the supervisor will not interfere with the child and non-custodial parent’s interactions unless interference is necessary to protect the child or the custodial parent.
Q: Are there alternatives to supervised visitation?
Yes, under appropriate circumstances. Under Georgia’s guidelines for situations involving non-custodial parents who have committed acts of family violence, possible alternatives to supervised visitation include:
- Exchanging the child in a protected setting
- Requiring the non-custodial parent to complete a certified family violence intervention program
- Requiring the non-custodial parent to abstain from alcohol and drug use during visits and for 24 hours prior
- Allowing only daytime visitation
- Imposing any other conditions on visitation that are “deemed necessary to provide for the safety of the child, the victim of family violence, or another family or household member.”
Q: Who pays the costs associated with supervised visitation?
When the supervision is to be provided by a third-party agency, it is generally up to the parents to pay the costs involved. While the costs may ultimately fall on the custodial parent, the court may order the non-custodial parent to contribute or pay the costs entirely. Or, the parents can agree on how they will split the costs as part of their divorce or separation.
Q: Can I prohibit my former spouse or co-parent from spending time with my child?
Georgia law favors allowing children to maintain relationships with both of their parents, so supervised visitation (or one of the alternatives listed above) is more likely than a complete denial of parental rights. However, in cases of severe abuse or severe addiction, where the child’s safety and stability are threatened, or where the non-custodial parent is incarcerated, the courts may award sole custody without visitation.
Q: If circumstances have changed, can I seek to modify my current visitation arrangement?
If you are concerned about your child’s safety or wish to spend unsupervised time with your children, you may be able to seek a modification of your current custody and visitation order. The Georgia courts will only modify custody and visitation orders under limited circumstances, so it will be important to discuss your options with an experienced family law attorney.
Speak with an Attorney at Stearns-Montgomery & Proctor
If you would like more information about Georgia’s supervised visitation guidelines, we encourage you to contact us for an initial consultation. To speak with one of our experienced family law attorneys in confidence, please call (678) 971-3413 or request an appointment online today.