Matt is nine years old. His mom and dad divorced one year ago and he has been living with his mom ever since. She has custody of Matt, who usually visits his dad once a week (“access”). Two weeks ago Matt’s mom stopped the visits.
Mom wants Matt’s dad only to get access with Matt if it is “supervised”, because she wants to know everything they do together. Matt’s mom feels that this reason is enough to limit access and even to refuse to allow Matt’s dad have access with Matt at all.
Matt’s dad believes that there is no need for supervision when he has access visits with Matt. He wants to continue seeing Matt on his own.
Matt misses his father and he has no idea what supervised access means. Matt is worried that he will never be able to see his dad again.
What is supervised access?
Supervised access means that you may not be alone while you visit with your parent. The purpose of supervised access to is primarily to ensure the child’s safety, but may also be used to monitor an access parent’s alienating behaviour (i.e., where he or she tries to break the bond between the child and the other parent), for example. Not all families need supervised access. In cases where a children’s aid society thinks it is necessary, supervised access may be ordered by a court, unless both parents agree to it. Both parents have a right to be heard in court about whether they think supervised access is necessary.
Supervised access can mean that you must have your access visits at a specific person’s house, or that you must always have another person with you to supervise when you visit your access parent. The person supervising can be a family member or another trusted person but usually this must be first determined by the court.
Can Matt’s access visits with his dad be stopped altogether?
It is not Mom’s decision alone whether to cancel access between Matt and Dad. Unless both parents agree, the decision about whether to restrict access would be made by a Judge in court. Access will usually only be stopped altogether in extreme cases or under special circumstances, for example, when serious child abuse has been proven and the abusing parent refuses treatment.
Parents cannot refuse to pay child support because they cannot get access or choose not to visit their child. However, access will not be denied because a parent fails to pay child support. Access and child support and separate legal issues. There are other ways to get support from a non-paying parent.
Written By Lina Maria Sanchez (PLE Team Volunteer) and Meghan Lindo (JFCY law/Masters of social work practicum student from UofT)