How can visitation or parenting time be made safe?

Produced by an AmeriCorps Project of Western Massachusetts Legal Services updated and revised Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed August 2015

Sometimes it is unsafe for a child to spend time with their parent because the parent drinks a lot, takes drugs, or is abusive.

A judge can order some things to make parenting time or visitation safe:

  • "Supervised visitation” means that the other parent can only see your child with someone else watching. Supervised visitation centers are places where social workers who know about domestic violence watch over the visits between parents and children. You can ask the judge to order visitation to take place at a supervised visitation center. You can also have friends, relatives, or people from your church supervise. If you want someone like that to supervise the visits, be prepared to tell the judge who that person is and why he or she is a good person to supervise. Make sure the person is willing to supervise visits before you give his or her name to the judge.
  • Limits on time: The judge can limit parenting time to a few hours at a time or order that no overnight parenting time be allowed.
  • Limits on place: The judge can order that the other parent spend parenting time in a specific place, like the mall or a playground.
  • Other orders: The judge can order the other parent to do certain things, or not do certain things, before visiting or spending parenting time with your child. Some things the judge can order are:
    • No drinking for 24 hours before parenting time or visitation.
    • The parent must go to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) each week to have weekly parenting time or visits.
    • The parent must attend parenting classes.
    • The parent must attend a batterer’s intervention program.
    • The parent cannot have the child around a certain person.

If you want the judge to order any of these things, you will have to prove that they are needed. You will need to prove that it is harmful for the other parent to have parenting time or visits without the special rules.

What if the other parent abused me but not our child?

Domestic violence harms children. Judges understand that watching or hearing violence scares and upsets children. Tell the judge if visiting or spending time with the other parent makes your child very upset and scared. Tell the judge if your child is afraid of the other parent.

  • You may be able to get the judge to order special rules for the visits. It will help if you get an "affidavit" (written sworn statement) from your child’s therapist or doctor that explains why there needs to be special rules for parenting time or visits.

You may also need special rules in order to keep you safe. For example, it may not be safe for you to see the other parent. You may need the judge to order rules to keep you safe, such as:

  • Visits or parenting time can only happen if a third person (a friend or relative or social worker) takes your child to and from visits with the other parent;
  • Visits or parenting time can only happen if you drop off and pick up your child at a friend or relative's house, or at a supervised visitation center;
  • Visits or parenting time can only happen if you bring the child to the other parent in a public place, like a street corner or playground;
  • Any other plan that will keep you safe.

Who to call for help

Find Legal Aid

You may be able to get free legal help from your local legal aid program. Or email a question about your own legal problem to a lawyer.

Help us improve MassLegalHelp!

Take a short survey to tell us what works and what is missing.

Ask a Law Librarian

If it's
Monday-Friday
between
9am and 4pm