What is the Difference Between Supervised and Unsupervised Parenting Time?

Happy African American mother and child laughing and having unsupervised parenting time on a beach vacation.

As a parent, you are probably used to seeing your child every day, in the most ordinary of ways: when they wake you up in the morning, when you have meals, when you read them a story and tuck them in at night. You don’t think of it as “parenting time;” it’s just being a parent. 

When you and your child’s other parents no longer share a household, the details of how and when you spend time with your children necessarily becomes more formal. You and the other parent agree on a parenting plan, or the court imposes one on you. That plan may call for “supervised” or “unsupervised” parenting time. What exactly does that mean?

Supervised parenting time and unsupervised parenting time are pretty much what they sound like. Unsupervised parenting time, which is by far more common, is simply the time you spend with your kids; it is simply scheduled so that you and the other parent each have designated time.

Supervised parenting time is when a third party, such as a trusted family member or friend or a professional social worker, is present for all or part of one parent’s time with the child. Supervised parenting time is ordered by a court when circumstances warrant it, usually for the safety of the child or the parent who has primary child custody. If parenting time is supervised by a professional, it is typically at a neutral environment rather than the home of the non-custodial parent.

When is Supervised Parenting Time Necessary?

As a general rule, it’s important for a child to have regular, frequent, and ongoing contact with both parents, in order to maintain a strong relationship with them. But the need for regular contact cannot take priority over the child’s safety. When a non-custodial parent being alone with the child or with the other parent could put the child or the custodial parent at risk, a court may order a supervised parenting time arrangement. 

Courts may order supervised parenting time in Minnesota when:

  • There is a history of domestic violence by the non-custodial parent against the custodial parent or the child
  • The non-custodial parent abuses drugs or alcohol
  • The non-custodial parent has mental illness that is not adequately treated
  • The non-custodial parent has physically or sexually abused the child or has a history of physical and/or child sexual abuse that places the child at risk
  • There is reason to believe that the child is at risk of neglect if parenting time is not supervised
  • There is a risk that the non-custodial parent will kidnap the child if parenting time is not supervised
  • The non-custodial parent has been absent or mostly absent from the child’s life and supervised parenting time is necessary to allow the child to get to know and feel comfortable with the non-custodial parent

In general, supervised parenting time is ordered when necessary to allow a child to have a relationship with a parent without risking the child’s safety. 

Just because a judge has ordered supervised parenting time does not mean that parenting time will always need to be supervised. If, for instance, a parent with untreated mental health issues gets regular treatment and their condition is under control, a court could consider moving from supervised to less-supervised or unsupervised parenting time. 

Types of Supervised Parenting Time in Minnesota

Even as courts prioritize the safety of children and parents, they do not want to unnecessarily limit the ability of parents and children to build and maintain relationships. There are a variety of types of supervised parenting time in Minnesota to serve different needs:

  • One-on-one supervision, in which one person, often a professional, supervises a non-custodial parent’s parenting time with their child
  • Group or multiple-family supervision, in which one or more professionals are present in an environment where multiple parents and children are spending time
  • Supported (or directed) supervision, in which the professional supervising the parenting time interacts with the parent and child to facilitate behavioral change
  • Therapeutic supervision, in which the supervising professional is a licensed mental health professional who conducts therapy with the parent and child within the parenting time session
  • Intermittent supervision, in which the professional intentionally leaves the parent and child alone together for brief periods to help move them toward readiness for unsupervised parenting time
  • Supervised pick-up/drop-off The parenting time itself may be unsupervised, but transfers of the child between parents are supervised because there is a history of violence or conflict. 

Either parent can request that parenting time be supervised, or a court may determine on its own that supervised parenting time is appropriate.

Unfortunately, there are occasions when one parent alleges abuse or neglect by the other in order to make it more difficult for them to get custody of the child or to have unsupervised parenting time. If you have been unjustly accused of abusing or neglecting your child, it is essential that you have strong legal representation in your Minnesota child custody and parenting time matter. 

To learn more about supervised parenting in Minnesota, or to get help making sure that parenting time with your child is safe and beneficial for all involved, please contact Mundahl Law online or call our law office at  763-575-7930.