In a child custody case, if one parent is granted sole custody, the other parent generally is allowed to have visits with the child. In New York State, the parent who does not have physical custody can almost always still have visitation rights with the child, because of the court’s desire to maintain a relationship between children and their parents.
There are several different types of visitation, including unsupervised, supervised, therapeutic supervised, neutral place of exchange, and monitored transition.
Unsupervised visitation is the most common visitation type. Parents who have unsupervised visitation have relatively free-range with their child. They generally can take them to their home or on a trip, stay with them overnight, etc.
Supervised visitation is ordered if there is evidence that the non-custodial parent (the parent without custody) has presented a danger to his or her child. This may be the case if the parent has a history of being abusive or neglectful or has a history substance abuse. In supervised visits, another adult must be present during the visit. In some cases, the court allows the non-custodial parent to choose the person who will supervise the visit themselves, and in others, the parent and child must meet at a certain place so that a court-appointed supervisor can monitor the visit.
Therapeutic supervised visits are a type of supervised visitation in which a mental health professional acts as the supervisor and aims to help the parent improve his or her parenting skills during the visit.
Visitation with a neutral place of exchange are visits in which the child switches from one parent to the other at a safe location so that the parents do not have to interact with each other, such as at a police station, school, or library.
Monitored transition is a type of visitation in which a third party is present when the child goes from one parent to the other, in order to make sure that the child remains in a safe and calm environment when transitioning between parents.
If someone fails to comply with his or her visitation order, the other party can file a petition alleging a violation of the order. In response, the court will hold a hearing and the judge can change the order and/or impose sanctions on the person who failed to uphold it. In addition, either party to a visitation agreement can file a petition to have the order changed, but they must prove that there has been a significant change in circumstances since it was issued in order to have it modified. Ultimately, the courts hold a hearing to determine whether modifying the visitation order would be in the child’s best interest.