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
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
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
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
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
* * *
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
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,
Anatomy of an Affair. A
free condensed pdf version of the e-Book can be
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;
an Effective Parenting
for a Custody
You are also welcome to sign up
for a free mini-course, Arming
Yourself for Your Custody
or for more information, please email us at
or 204. 487.7247 or fax:
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