Re-Thinking Supervised Visits

For most noncustodial parents, the thought of having a perfect stranger sit and watch them while they spend their limited and much valued time with their children is most unappealing to say the least. For those parents who previously had strong, positive and healthy relationships with their kids, this seems wrong, unfair and demeaning. At face value, I couldn't agree more!!

However, there is another side to this story. One that is much more positive, effective and cost saving. How can this be so? Take a deep breath, sit back and read on....

Supervised visits managed by professionals who understand the dynamics of high conflict divorces and who have lots of experience working in these situations can be a parent's ticket to renewed relationships with children who have been affected by loyalty issues, alienating influences, false allegations of abuse and access blocking. In other words, what appears to be supervised visitation on the surface, is really a program of family reunification and reintegration.

Since developing our "therapeutic supervision" program (which for reasons that will soon be obvious we do not call them "family reunification/reintegration), we are pleased to boast a 100% success rate in helping parents and children reconnect.

How Do We Do It?

There really is no magic or rocket science involved in the process. What is involved is careful and detailed observations and documentation of any interactions involving the children, the parents (yes, both parents) and anyone else that is involved from the time the children are dropped off until they are picked up. We use our own visitation log (upon which our online Parent Visitation Log is based) to document all interactions including those involving telephone contacts between visits. This coupled by my report summarizing and making recommendations about what has been observed are then submitted to the court for review by a judge.

This unique program that we have developed has not only been instrumental in helping parents and kids reconnect, but also in achieving open and increased access for parents. In some cases, a change in custody has occurred and in one case, we brought to light issues of abuse by the custodial parent that were previously overlooked by Child Protective Services.

What Make this Program Work?

It's the appeal it holds for the custodial parent in addressing alleged "safety" concerns. For the noncustodial parent, it offers protection against all sorts of further allegations. From a cost perspective, a complete program of supervision including observation notes and a report is about half the cost of a custody evaluation ($3000 USD v. $6000 USD based on 20 hours of supervision & parent interaction - average cost being quoted). Most importantly, a custody evaluation does not guarantee that a parent denied access to his or her children will have an opportunity to re-establish a relationship. This program makes that possible!

ESSENTIAL Ingredients of a Successfl Reunification/Reintegration Program

1. A professional who is well versed in this process, able to cope with challenging situations and has the credentials to impress the court.

2. A court order stipulating the conditions under which the supervised access will occur as well as the cooperation of all parties with penalties for noncompliance.

3. Shared costs of the services is recommended to ensure compliance.

4. Frequent and consistent visits will enhance the success of a reunification/reintegration program. Aim for twice weekly access periods.

To learn more about our family reunification/reintegration programs which are now being made available in some centers across Canada and the U.S.A., please contact Dr. Reena Sommer at:

© 2008, Reena Sommer

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However often marriage is dissolved, it remains indissoluble. Real divorce, the divorce of heart and nerve and fiber, does not exist, since there is no divorce from memory. - Virgilia Peterson

Dr. Reena Sommer is an internationally recognized relationship and divorce consultant. She became widely known as a strong critic of domestic violence policies that failed to recognized the reciprocal nature of partner abuse.

Dr. Sommer has been an invited speaker to academic, government and lay audiences in Canada and the U.S.. In 1998, Dr. Sommer testified before the Joint Senate-House of Commons Committee on Custody and Access on the issue of domestic violence. More recently in April 2002, she was invited by the Canadian federal government to participate on a panel of experts on the issue of custody and access.

She has written extensively on relationship and family issues such as domestic violence, addictions, divorce and custody. Her interest in high conflict relationships led her toward developing expertise as a divorce consultant in the assessment and treatment of parental alienation syndrome under Dr. Richard Gardner. As well, Dr. Sommer recently completed her e-Book, The Anatomy of an Affair. A free condensed pdf version of the e-Book can be downloaded.

Dr. Sommer has produced three divorce related informational products which are currently available online in the form of downloadable audiofiles: Divorce 101: Things You are Unlikely to Hear from an Attorney; Developing an Effective Parenting Plan, and Preparing for a Custody Evaluation.

You are also welcome to sign up for a free mini-course, Arming Yourself for Your Custody Battle! See or for more information, please email us at E-Mail or 204. 487.7247 or fax: 204.487.3051  

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