In the world of child protection, judges are often inclined to “err on the side of caution” when faced with requests for parenting time. Almost universally, parents are required to be supervised when the litigation commences. As the case proceeds, that supervision is often lessened to the point of allowing unsupervised time leading into reunification.
But how often do we truly question the necessity for supervision, let alone the parameters of supervision of parenting time? Recently, I observed a court proceeding where a mother was declared not protective of her children because she had allowed her husband, the perpetrator of domestic violence, to return to the home and continue his abuse of her in the presence of the children. This was the classic “failure to protect” case. The domestic violence victim was allowed only supervised parenting time with the children; however, it was allowed to be liberal and reasonable supervised parenting time. Significantly, the judge was emphatic that the mother could spend as much time with the children in that supervised setting as she desired, so long as she did not spend the night.
Of course, this begs the question. What exactly would she “fail to protect” the children from while they are sleeping in their beds at night?! And if someone else is entrusted with the care of the children, isn’t it that person’s responsibility to protect the children?
Similar questions arise in cases where the allegation is excessive corporal punishment. And most times, the parent accused to be excessive in corporal punishment is required to be supervised. Do we ever stop and think that the best court order for such a parent would be to simply bar any corporal punishment pending an outcome of the case? And if supervision is required, could we not protect the children by simply having the supervisor sleep in the same room with the children so that the parent accused of excessive corporal punishment could not have access to them at night?
But let’s take it one step further. Has anyone ever stopped to question the “logic” of having a parent barred from the home at night time under the theory of requiring supervision, where the allegation is excessive corporal punishment? After all, does anyone really think that the accused parent is going to wake up the children in the middle of the night just for the fun of beating the children? Really?!
Must we assume that every parent accused of poor judgment in parenting requires line of site supervision at all times? It appears the general consensus is that we must in order to be most protective of the children. However, if we consider the overwhelming intrusion into family life and unfortunate impingement upon parental autonomy where supervision is routinely imposed, perhaps we will broaden our perspective on these cases and seek an appropriate compromise that will both ensure child protection and constitutional parental rights.
If you believe the judge in your case is being unduly restrictive as to your parenting time, feel free to contact us to schedule a consultation.