Supervised access with families is based on having access to a location for a visit, typically a supervised access centre and the employed supervisors that are there to assist and monitor the visits. With everything being shut down for at least a two week period, what happens to scheduled supervised access visits? What happens if the service disruption is further extended? How do you see your child(ren)?
This is new territory for all of us around the world, as most of us have not experienced anything quite like the COVID-19 virus, so we are dealing with family matters on a case by case situation. Courts are currently operating on minimum staff with courts only willing to hear urgent matters, so the usual remedies available to address access issues are not available during at this time.
Some Alternative Options to Supervised Access During the Service Disruption
In some instances when parents relocate to another city or country and access cannot happen in person regularly, they have chosen to explore various forms of electronic communications. It may be possible to adopt those practices in the interim while we all wait for when normal routines will be back in place. For example, could you organize a Skype or Facetime session for your child during the regular scheduled access times that would normally happen in person? This might help to encourage continuity of visits with the accessing parent and also to help the child continue to feel connected to both parents during this uncertain time.
Some factors to consider when thinking about using Skype or Facetime (or another means of electronic communication) as an alternative to supervised access:
1) The child’s age and the length of the communication – a young child may not be able to maintain interest in a lengthy communication, even on Skype or Facetime. Be sensitive to your child’s attention span and interest;
2) Keep the communication child focused – think of activities you can do with your child while on electronic communications. Read a book to your child, play games that work over Skype or Facetime, etc. This is not the time to try to communicate with the other parent about adult issues;
3) The time of the call – try to organize the electronic communication at the same time as the regularly scheduled access visits to promote continuity and consistency for the child. If another time is more suitable and agreed to that is great, just be mindful of times that may not work well for a child (i.e. dinner time, bedtime, later in the evening, etc.); and;
4) Be flexible and work together for the best interests of your child – this is a confusing time for everyone, including children. The more everyone can work together the better it is for your child(ren).
Stay Safe and Healthy!
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