The ability of a parent to visit with a child is of paramount importance to the state of Florida. Sometimes,
custody arrangements via
time-sharing plans are relatively simple affairs. They proceed without much—if any—court interference. And the parties adhere to their obligations as the children grow up. Other times, though, these relationships are more complex.
Once such complexity is the unfortunate situation when one parent may be a danger to either the child or the other parent. So important is even the dangerous parent's right to visitation, though, that the state provides for a forum in which visitation can be supervised.
The Clearinghouse on Supervised Visitation
Florida law recognizes the existence of a "Clearinghouse on Supervised Visitation," an organization responsible for setting the rules for, coordinating, and reporting on supervised child visitation.
Today, this clearinghouse is run by Florida State University's Institute
Studies. The first supervised visitation program in Florida was opened in Jacksonville in 1993. And currently,
every judicial circuit in the state has at least one program.
According to the Institute, four general principles guide visitation programs in Florida: (1) safety, (2) training, (3) dignity and diversity, and (4) community.
First, in terms of safety, the Institute notes that the risks inherent in each visitation are different and that programs should be flexibly structured to be able to meet those needs. One report by the Institute from 2008 detailed two tragic instances of violence taking place at these visitations—causing the Institute to urge that "judges must be mindful of the complex safety issues involved in ordering supervision of contact between parents and children in domestic violence cases, in mental health cases, and when multiple issues co-occur."
Second, the Institute insists that all staff and volunteers have initial and ongoing training—and even then, there are numerous restrictions in place regarding who can have direct contact with parents or children (including age restrictions, background checks, and criminal conviction standards). Moreover, to attempt to avoid conflicts of interest, employees and volunteers cannot have certain relationships with the families being served (whether familial or financial).
The third principle—dignity and diversity—guides the Institute in a number of important ways, including insisting that programs seek diverse staff members and translators, where relevant. And the fourth principle—community—builds bridges between supervised visitation programs and other state and local resources. Supervised visitation programs, as the Institute writes, "do not exist in a vacuum." And communication between these programs and the courts, child protective services, the police, and other agencies is paramount to the success of these efforts.
Contact an Attorney to Help with Visitation
If you need help navigating child custody or some other family law-related matter, please do not hesitate to contact the legal professionals at Hager
& Schwartz, P.A. in Miami to learn how we can help.