All divorces are messy. Even when both people quietly agree that the marriage is over, there are always still hurt feelings and entwined assets to separate. This process is made all the more difficult when there are children involved. In the vast majority of cases, one parent will be granted full custody while the other parent accepts some form of partial custody and visitation. If a divorce has been particularly nasty or if there has been significant personal hardship in the family, it’s possible that supervised visitation may be required. In many cases, this is the doing of a vindictive or overly dramatic ex.
If your divorce terms have required supervised visitation with your children, all is not lost. Under the watchful eye of a supervisor, you will need to be on your best behavior during visits for a few years but there are things you can do to make this process easier for both you and your kids. The first step is to take control of the situation and take part in the terms of the supervision.
Tips to Get Started
-Have a Lawyer
When it comes to custody and time with your kids, you don’t want to leave anything to chance. Having a divorce lawyer on your side can help you know when to make the right moves and when you safe to insist on certain agreements.
-Avoid Court Supervision
If you have any rapport left with their ex, work together to avoid court supervision which is a specific option they could choose and insist on. Court supervision happens in the courthouse which means both you and your kids have to meet in a big intimidating building full of unhappy and serious people. In other words, not fun for kids and awkward for everyone. To save your kids from that unpleasant series of experiences, avoid court supervision as much as possible.
-Agree on a Supervisor with Your Ex
Next is deciding who will be supervising your visits. This needs to be someone who will be available for every appointment and preferably someone who your kids are familiar with and will enjoy spending time with you and them. You may want to argue with your ex over who the supervisor will be, but that has a higher chance of them ‘winning’. Instead, be the voice of reason and try to compromise on someone responsible that both of you can stand.
Doing Well on Supervised Visits
Making your kids happy and making a good impression on the supervisor during your visits is very important for getting more time with your kids and eventually shaking the supervision. This means that you need to take the visitations seriously and make sure they go well.
-Stick to the Schedule
Courts love schedules and people who stick to them. Simply showing up a little bit early to every single visit is a good showing to start with. Canceling visits is a bad sign and should be done only for absolute emergencies a court would understand. Showing up late isn’t great either so always be prompt and call ahead if you are delayed.
-Prepare for Each Visit
What you do and how much fun your kids have on each visit matters and one of the biggest mistakes we have seen is simply not being prepared. Take a few hours in the week before your visit to plan some activities, buy supplies, or put together a fun outing to take your kids and the supervisor on.
Before the visit, clean up your house and make a space that is especially friendly for your kids. Make sure that there are child-friendly foods in the kitchen and that you know what you’re cooking or ordering if you have them for a meal time.
-Catch Up with Your Children
Don’t forget to spend a little time catching up with your children and staying involved in each other’s lives. Ask each child what’s going on with them and take the time to learn the names of their friends and favorite things. Then share what’s going on in your life. If you move, let your kids help you unpack during a visit. If you get a promotion, celebrate with your kids that week and celebrate their passed math test at the same time. This helps to build your bond even in a limited amount of time.
-Be Nice to the Supervisor
You may or may not be thrilled at who your supervisor turned out to be. They might be your sister, your mother-in-law, or a hired professional if you don’t live near family or family friends. The key to acing your supervised visitations besides making your kids happy is to be considerate with the supervisor. If you go to the movies, buy them a ticket. If you travel, make sure there’s room in the car.
Even and especially if you suspect the supervisor is reporting to your ex or the court, be as nice and courteous as you can. Ideally, they will be or become your ally in making sure the kids have a good time.
–Some Supervisors Prefer to be Ignored
That said, know your supervisor before putting on the charm. If it’s someone who’s supervising out of obligation or who has no real connection to your family, they might just be around to make sure nothing bad happens. If your supervisor wants to browse on their phone or read a book and simply keep an eye on the visit, simply make it easy for them to do so and offer them the occasional beverage.
-Never Speak (Ill) of Your Ex
If you want to earn the divorced parent of the year award, achieve the surprisingly difficult feat of never speaking an ill word about your ex in front of your kids. In fact, try to never speak about your ex at all just in case there’s bitter subtext you don’t mean for your children to pick up. This will help keep a lot of the divorce stress off of your kids and may even offer them a haven from the fight if your ex still talks about you. This will also be a great showing for the supervisor who will inevitably expect to hear bitterness on both sides.
Finally, always keep your promises to your children. This is good parenting 101 but divorcees often have trouble keeping their promises due to a hectic schedule or stress after the divorce. Put extra work into only making promises you can keep and sticking to the promises you make. Not only will this show your children that they can rely on you, it will also make a great impression on the supervisor who will never see you break a promise.