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What You Need to Know About Supervised Visitation in North Carolina

Figuring out child custody can be difficult, and the results of a court order can stay in place for years to come. This can put pressure on parents to get the terms right. But when one parent doesn’t believe the other should be alone with their child, it can make the process a lot more complicated.

Supervised visitation is possible in North Carolina, but it can come with a heavier burden of proof than custody decisions around primary or secondary custody and shared arrangements. While legal representation might be the best way to handle a request for supervised visitation, understanding what’s involved is an important first step.

Keep reading to learn more.

Supervised Visitation Starts With Sole Custody

The state will sometimes decide which parent gets custody of your child. If a judge thinks it’s in the best interests of the child to only live with one parent, that parent gets sole custody. The other parent (also referred to as the non-custodial parent or visiting parent) may have to have an agreement from the custodial parent for any visitation.

While a parent could get visitation, a court might not think it’s a good idea that it happens without someone overseeing the visit. This can lead to supervised visitation, where a qualified person attends the session.

RELATED: Denied Child Custody or Visitation? Here’s What to Do

There’s a Big Step From Sole Custody to Supervised Visitation

Minor disagreements between parents generally aren’t enough to prove that supervision is necessary, but more serious matters that might harm the child can make it an option. A concerned parent with custody can present the idea, or a court may consider it, in more severe scenarios:

  • Records of domestic violence
  • Drug abuse or alcoholism
  • Previous evidence of abandonment
  • Failure to care for children
  • Untreated mental health issues

Allowing a parent with these issues to care for a child without supervision could cause damage to a child’s life, resulting in symptoms of depression, withdrawal, and aggression, so the court doesn’t take them lightly.

The Decision Can Cover all Children

The court order will likely cover all minor children involved in custody. Since the important factor is the best interests of the child, it’s unusual that a court will approve unsupervised visitation for one child in the family and not another when there are serious circumstances present.

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What Are the Terms of Supervised Visitation?

The timeline for supervised custody arrangements can vary depending on the situation. A judge might put temporary custody in place that remains until a permanent hearing occurs. That permanent hearing could determine if the supervised custody stays in place moving forward.

The family courts will also decide the visitation schedule details:

  • Location of the meeting
  • Frequency and length
  • A supervisor that will be present

The Court Can Set Meeting Locations and Times

While a judge can let the parents decide where the scheduled visit happens and the duration of the visits, that judge could also set specific guidelines for each session.

The agreement can be as lenient as allowing the parent to spend supervised time with the child in the non-custodial parent’s home, or the terms can also be more restrictive in consideration of the safety of the child, meaning they meet in a neutral site or at a visitation center.

A Supervisor Will Manage the Meetings

The supervisor will be an adult, but the details beyond that depend on the circumstances. The custodial parent or family member could be enough to satisfy as the supervisor. In more serious cases, it could be up to a professional to oversee visitation.

A social worker or doctor might be in charge of supervised visits where there are greater concerns. When a professional oversees the meetings, the custody agreement will likely outline who will compensate them for their time.

Existing Custody Orders Might Not Be Permanent

A judge can also outline any steps that could lead to an expiration of the arrangement.

Milestones can mark the progress toward removing supervision, like the parent going a set period of time without issues or completing the steps of an assistance programs, like counseling or sobriety classes.

Parents can also seek a modification. The parent seeking a change in custody will need to take it up with the court by filing a motion. The courts will then look to you to show what new evidence you might have on the matter or if the other parent’s behavior has changed enough to threaten the well-being of your child. Next, a court order will make the decision official and enforceable.

RELATED: How Are Child Custody Laws Different for Unmarried Parents?

Can Parents Get Assistance With Custody?

Supervised custody can be an enormous undertaking to handle alone, but representation by a family law attorney can help. Understanding what can lead to supervision, how to prove they’re present, and finding acceptable terms for supervised visits may all be aspects you’ll need to tackle.

You may need assistance discovering your options and finding the best way to put them into viable terms for visitation. A family law attorney who has dealt with these cases before can greatly benefit you as you make your way through the process.

Myers Law Firm Is Here to Help With Custody Issues

The choices you make in your case could affect you and your family for years to come, so it’s important to have a team that understands the potential impact.

Myers Law Firm has decades of combined experience with difficult family matters, including supervised visitation. They’ve offered guidance and support to clients navigating the search for custody terms that fit their needs and can help you work toward a similar outcome.

Call us at (888) 376-2889 or complete this brief form to schedule a free consultation.


  1. O’Sullivan; L. King; K. Levin-Russell; E. Horowitz. (2006, April). Supervised and Unsupervised Parental Access in Domestic Violence Cases: Court Orders and Consequences. https://www.ojp.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/213712.pdf

N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50-13.2 (2017).

North Carolina Judicial Branch. Access and Visitation Program. https://www.nccourts.gov/programs/access-and-visitation-program

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

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