FREQUENCY AND DURATION:
Each court order must clarify all terms and conditions of access, such as the frequency and duration of the supervised visit or exchange (e.g. 'the child(ren) will have supervised visits twice a week for a duration of one hour subject to The Salvation Army Supervised Access Centre's availability').
Orders should not specify the actual day or time. Generally visits are one to two hours in duration; however in special circumstances such as long distances, a three hour maximum may be possible based on the Centre's space and availability. Longer visits in the Centre are often difficult for children and adults due to the limited nature of the facilities.
OTHER ISSUES TO ADDRESS IN ORDERS:
Addressing the following issues in a court order or agreement may reduce misunderstandings and the chance that a matter will have to return to court or require legal intervention.
Holidays: Access arrangements should specify what happens on long weekends, school holidays, family vacations, and religious holidays.
Make-up visits and exchanges: Unless specified in an order, any cancellation of supervised visits and exchanges by the Residential party will be made up.
Child Car Restraints: The Salvation Army Supervised Access Centre requires that anyone driving children to or from the Access Centre have proper child car seats. Many parents do not agree on who is responsible for providing the car seat/booster. Therefore, including this in an order can help avoid disputes. Please note: The Access Centre does not inspect party's vehicles for proper child restraints; this is the responsibility of the parent who will be transporting the child.
Medication: Responsibility for provision and administration of medication during a visit should be specified in the court order. In the absence of such instructions, the Residential parent will be expected to provide the required medication and usage instructions and the non-residential parent will administer it. Centre staff and volunteers will not administer medications except in an emergency.
Photographs: The Access Centre permits a visiting parent to take photographs of the child during a supervised visit unless stated otherwise in an order. Note: Recording devices such as video cameras, tape records, laptops, cell phones, pagers and other electronic devices are not permitted onsite. EXCEPTION: digital camera, however it is to be operated by staff during the visit.)
Gifts and Food: Unless specified in a court order, the provision of gifts and/or food by the visiting parent is permitted.
Visitors: Orders should specify who (if anyone) other than the named parties, is allowed to attend visits at the Access Centre. The ability for the Access Centre to accommodate visitors is based on sufficient notice, availability of space and visitor's willingness to sign a service agreement requiring them to follow the Access Centre's rules and maintain confidentiality.
Who can pick-up and drop-off child at the Centre: Orders should specify who (if anyone) other than the named parties, is allowed to attend the Centre to drop-off and pick-up the child(ren).
Supervised Access Centre staff cannot advise families about whether or not they should continue supervised visits or exchanges. They also cannot advise whether a family should move from visits to exchanges or increase the duration of visits. As a result, a family may remain at the Centre when supervision is no longer necessary, or simply because they are not aware that they can ask the court to change the supervised access order.
It has been found to be helpful when:
- Court orders contain a mechanism for reviewing the ongoing need for supervised access
- Temporary court orders specify the number of supervised visits or exchanges to occur in addition to a return date.
- Final court orders specify that there is supervised access until such time as the parties agree to a change in the access arrangements or a court order has changed the existing arrangements.