Many parents struggle with the issue of visitation because of fear of violence or psychological harm to their child by the other parent. In cases where the danger is not severe enough to cut off visitation entirely and when no friend or family member can help, a parent may wish to seek out a neutral place and party to conduct supervised visitation. Thankfully, Florida has provided the Clearinghouse on Supervised Visitation, funded by Florida’s Department of Children and Families (DCF) to assist families in this situation.
History and Purpose of the Clearinghouse on Supervised Visitation
The Clearinghouse on Supervised Visitation is an entity within the Institute for Family Violence Studies in the School of Social Work of the Florida State University. It was created in 1996 to give technical assistance, training, and research on issues relating to the provision of visitation services. (Florida Statutes 753.01) It was initially funded by the Office of the State of Courts Administrator, but now receives funding primarily from DCF.
The purposes of the Clearinghouse are:
- to develop standards for supervised visitation programs in order to ensure quality and safety for their participants, both children and families;
- to collect and maintain data, resources and research of such programs;
- to give technical assistance and support to existing and emerging programs;
- to compile a directory of state-supervised visitation programs with referral information;
- to create a newsletter for these programs;
- to organize workshops and conferences that address issues of concern to these programs;
A “supervised visitation program” is defined by the statute as a program which offers structured contact between a parent or caregiver and a child in the presence of a third party who observes and ensures the safety of those involved. These programs can also include exchange monitoring of children subject to visitation orders. Such programs monitor a child’s movement between his custodial and noncustodial parent before and after unsupervised visitation, providing a safe, neutral place for the exchange.
The Clearinghouse has a web site (http://familyvio.csw.fsu.edu/clearinghouse/) with many useful resources not only for operators of visitation programs, but also for parents seeking out a safe place for their child to have visitation. The web site has a list of supervised visitation programs throughout Florida, organized by judicial circuit. However, it states on the web page that the Clearinghouse does not endorse these programs as it does not regulate them. Its role is to provide support, assistance, and resources only. The Clearinghouse web site also provides information on Parent Education and Family Stabilization Course providers throughout the state, again listed by judicial circuit. This course is designed to educate, train, and assist divorcing parents with respect to the consequences of divorce on parents and children. In addition, the Clearinghouse web site provides information on other parent education classes provided by the Florida supervised visitation programs. The site has an archive containing newsletters, research and information going back for years.
If you are facing a custody and visitation battle, help and resources are available. A competent, experienced Florida Child Custody and Visitation Attorney is a critical resource if you are to establish a plan conducive to your child’s well-being, particularly if you have concerns about abuse. The Law Offices of James S. Cunha, P.A. serves the family law needs of clients in Martin, Broward, Palm Beach, Okeechobee, Hendry, Miami-Dade, and St. Lucie Counties. Please call us at (561) 429-3924 to schedule a consultation.