The issue of supervised visitation has become a hot topic in the courts. When a child's safety is at risk during visitation, the court will usually allow visitation only if it is supervised by a third party, who can be someone agreed to by the parties, a paid professional supervisor, or a service provided by the court. Recently, Montgomery County opened a supervised visitation center that can oversee visits for 1 hour every other week. Prince George's County has had a supervised center in place for a number of years. Paid supervisors typically charge $50 per hour for a three hour visit, which can be scheduled when the supervisor is available. Third parties can be anyone the parties agree to use (grandmother, aunt, uncle, friend, etc.). The Gardner Law Firm has utilized paid supervisors in a number of cases, and can refer you to one if needed.
The law presumes that the maximum reasonable visitation time with a child is in the best interest of the child because it promotes a close relationship to the parent receiving visitation. However, Maryland's courts have held that "when the child's health or welfare is at stake visitation may be restricted or even denied. In situations where there is evidence that visitation may be harmful to the child, the presumption that liberal unrestricted visitation with a non-custodial parent is in the best interests of the child may be overcome. Applying a best interest standard, coupled with a finding of adverse impact, Maryland courts have restricted or denied visitation in situations involving sexual abuse, physical abuse, and/or emotional abuse by a parent." Boswell v. Boswell, 352 Md. 204, at 220-221 (1998). A parent who can meet this test and show that the child is likely to suffer abuse (emotional of physical) during visitation with the other parent is likely to receive supervised visitation.
The duration of the supervised visits is up to a judge to decide. Frequently, the courts try to gradually increase the length of such visits, while also imposing conditions that are intended to ensure that the parent who is viewed as a risk is receiving therapy or that other conditions are in place to ensure the safety of the child when the supervision is removed. These conditions often include anger management treatment, AA classes, drug testing, counseling, medical treatment, or whatever conditions the court may find are needed. In our experience, supervision usually ends when the parent has complied with these conditions, and sometimes the court schedules a review hearing for that purpose. Supervision does not need to be forever, but if it is imposed, the parent on whom it is imposed needs to do what is required of him or her so that the condition is removed and visits can go back to normal.
These cases are usually high-conflict cases, and the assistance of an attorney (on both sides) is highly recommended.