Guide to supervised visitation

The guide can help you

  • Understand what supervised visitation is
  • Learn next steps if you want a judge to make orders
  • Learn next steps if a judge has already made orders in your case


Are you a provider looking for more information?

Supervised visitation

Supervised visitation is when a parent spends time with their child with a neutral third person (provider) watching and listening during the visit. There are many reasons that a judge may require supervision. For example, it can be ordered when:

  • There are safety issues, like allegations of domestic violence, child abuse, or child abduction
  • A parent wants to spend time with a child that they've never had a relationship with or they've been apart from
  • There are safety concerns because of drug or alcohol use or mental health issues

What is a provider? 

A “provider” is a neutral third person that is ordered by a judge to watch and listen to every visit with the child. The provider is there to make every effort to keep your child safe. The provider must: 

  • Be present at all times during the visit 

  • Listen to what is being said 

  • Pay close attention to the child's behavior 

  • Report any suspected child abuse 

  • Feel comfortable interrupting or ending the visit if they have concerns

There are two types of providers: 

  • 1. Professional

    A professional provider is a person with special training that has passed a background check. Professional providers charge a fee. They are also mandated reporters which means that they must report suspected child abuse to the local child welfare department (CPS). Professional providers can be used for short visits (example: 1-2 hours). Learn more about professional providers

  • 2. Nonprofessional

    A nonprofessional is usually a friend or family member who does not have special training. If it would be dangerous for your child to be alone with the other parent, this may not be the best option. Learn more about nonprofessional providers.

If you want the other parent to have supervised visits

You can ask a judge to make this order. To make the request, you must complete court forms and file them with the court. Once you file your forms, you will get a court date to present your case to a judge. Before you make a request, here are some things to think about

Should I ask for a professional or nonprofessional provider?

Professional providers have protocols and special training to deal with cases that may involve safety issues (examples: domestic violence, possible abduction). Nonprofessionals are not trained and do not have special experience. Sometimes, it may not be possible to have professional provider because of the cost or language needs.

How long and how often should visits be?

This will depend on the age and needs of your children. It will also depend on the parent's work schedules. It will also depend on the availability of the provider. Your request should focus on what you think will be best for your child. 

Who should take the children to and from the visit?

If you are afraid of the other parent, you can have someone you trust bring your children to each visit. Any person that drives the children must have a valid driver's license and auto insurance. If you don't have anyone that can help you with driving the children, professional providers have policies to keep both parents separated and safe during the exchange. 

If a judge ordered supervised visitation

Read the judge’s order to understand what your next step is. Usually, the first thing you need to do is contact the provider.  

A professional provider will ask you for information to understand your case, including a copy of the judge’s order. If the orders say you must use a professional provider, but it does not list a specific provider, you must find one.

The court should have information about how to find a provider if one was not listed on theorder. Learn more

To find one, contact or check with the court’s Family Court Services office. You can also ask the court clerk’s office. If the court does not have a list, agencies like the California Association of Supervised Visitation Service Providers and the Supervised Visitation Network (SVN) may have a list of providers. These agencies do not regulate or regularly monitor the providers in their organization. If you're interested in someone from their list 

  • Interview the provider you choose 

  • Make sure the provider is qualified and trained 

  • Check they meet child abuse and fingerprinting clearance requirements by calling TrustLine at 1-800-822-8490. You will need the provider's full name and driver's license number. 

A nonprofessional provider will need more information to understand their role, including a copy of the judge’s order. Learn more about next steps for a nonprofessional provider.

If you can no longer follow the court order, you will need to ask the judge to change the order. For example, if your court order lists a specific provider or person to supervise the visits, and they are no longer available, you must go back to court to ask the judge to change the provider. You must do this by filing court papers. For information on how to make the request, you can contact your local self-help center.

More information

For a quick introduction to supervised visitation and exchange services, watch a quick 6-minute video that covers:

  • What is supervised visitation and exchange
  • Types of providers
  • Role of the provider
  • Cases with domestic violence or sexual abuse
  • Where to learn more

Play introductory video

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