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What is “supervised access”?

Sometimes, parents separate because of domestic violence, substance abuse, or because there is significant antagonism between the parents. There are also instances where there has been a lengthy separation between the parent and child. Sometimes, one parent does not interact appropriately with a child, possibly causing emotional distress to the child. There may be a risk of abduction.

In these cases, the child’s health and safety must be protected during access visits. Supervised access centres offer such parents a method to address these issues while still allowing access visits to occur. These centres provide a safe and secure setting where access visits and exchanges (pickups and dropoffs) can take place under the supervision of trained staff and volunteers. Staff and volunteers have special skills and are trained to be aware of issues such as family violence, child development, physical, verbal and emotional abuse, mental health, and substance abuse problems. Staff and volunteers are sensitive to the needs of the child, particularly children who are involved in high-conflict custody and access disputes.

Supervised access centres provide a safe, neutral and child-focused setting for access visits between a child and the access parent. Supervised access centres ensure the safety of families, staff and volunteers by staggering dropoff and pickup times, by having staff greet the child at the front door and accompany the child during the visit, and by providing enclosed play areas. Some centres record and provide factual observations of the visits.

As an alternative to using a supervised access centre, the parents may both agree to allow a family member or friend to supervise the access visits or to facilitate exchanges.