Deciding to help with supervised time

Deciding to help with supervised time

If you are thinking about supervising time between a child and one of their parents or another family member, it’s important to:

  • understand how supervised time usually works
  • knowh what to consider before agreeing
  • understand preparation for supervised time
  • know where to get help. 

What do I have to do during supervised time?  

You need to be there at all times when the child is with the parent. You cannot leave the child and the parent at any time, even if there are other people there.

If the parent is acting in any way which might harm, frighten or upset the child, you must step in to protect the child. You may need to end the time the parent is spending with the child.

As the supervisor, you must make sure that it is safe for the child.

Should I agree to supervise?

You need to feel comfortable and confident about taking on this role. Think about the following questions:

Do you support the supervised time?

Only agree to supervise if you agree with this parent having contact with this child. If you are comfortable with the child spending time with the parent, this may be an opportunity to help them build their relationship.

If you disagree about the parent spending time with the child, It is better not to supervise. Doing so may harm your relationship with both parents and the child.

Can you commit to the time involved?

Usually, supervised time will last for several hours. It may ocur regularly – every few days, or once or twice a fortnight.

Supervised time can be short-term but it can go for many months. If the parent has a job, supervised time will usually happen in the evening or on the weekend.

Are you prepared to say ‘no’ to the parent being supervised?

This is very important. You may have to set limits on what the parent can and cannot do, in the best interests of the child.

You may have to stop the parent from:

  • doing something which may hurt the child
  • doing something which may upset the child or is inappropriate in any way
  • being with the child if the parent is affected by drugs or alcohol.

This can be very difficult if the parent is your friend or relative.

If you are afraid of the parent, or can’t stand up to them, you are not going to be able to supervise visits. The court is relying on the supervisor to make contact safe for the child.

Are you willing to be a witness in court?

Supervisors may have to report to the court on how visits are going. You may have to give evidence against the parent if contact has not gone well. This can strain relationships, especially if the other parent is a family member or friend.

Supervising contact is a serious responsibility. Think carefully before you say ‘yes’.

How should supervised time happen?

To help the child develop a natural, loving relationship with the parent, time spent with the parent should be as normal as possible.

During visits, you should stay in the background as much as possible unless there is something that requires you to step in. You may want to develop your relationship with the child but supervision is not the place to do this. Stay out of the way but where you can still see the contact, This will make it easier for the child.

How should I prepare to supervise?

You can do things to help such as:

  • be aware of any medical conditions the child might have and know how to manage them
  • keep a list of handy telephone numbers, such as the child’s doctor and other important people
  • know the opening times and any costs for places such as the local library, pool, museum, zoo or park. Have public transport timetables so you know how to get to these places
  • keep paper and coloured pencils or crayons handy, so the parent and child can draw together.

Keep in mind however, that the parent should take care of the child (if they are able) and they should decide the activities that will happen. Your role is to give back-up ideas and supervise contact.

Do I need to keep a record of the supervised time?

Yes. This should include information about:

  • the date
  • how long the visit went for
  • brief notes about the activities
  • any concerns you have about the visit
  • if the child enjoyed spending time with the parent and whether things went well.

Remember, your notes could become evidence for the court. Keep them in a safe, private place.

What can happen during the first stages of supervised time?

The parent and child may be very emotional. They may be out of practice at being together. Most children find contact handovers very tense. They can be grumpy or difficult at first.

With patience, the parent and child may work things out in their own way. Small issues which do not put the child at risk can often be worked through.

What if something goes wrong during supervised time?  

You should tell the independent children’s lawyer (if the child has one) if you are concerned that:

  • the child is not really safe during contact
  • the child is so upset by the contact that it is not in their best interests.

You may have to refuse to supervise any more contact. As the supervisor, you cannot stand by and see the child come to harm.

Get help

Find out how you can get help with parenting arrangements and child contact.

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