New York courts presume that children should have both parents in their lives, even when the parents are divorced or otherwise not living together. This could mean shared child custody, or it could mean one of the parents gets sole custody and the other parent retains visitation rights.

It is unusual for the noncustodial parent to be denied visitation entirely, but sometimes there are serious questions about the parent’s ability to supervise and care for children safely, often due to a history of domestic violence. In those cases, the judge may place restrictions on the visitation, including ordering supervised visitation.

Supervised visitation means the parent may not be alone with his or her child. The presence of the supervisor will hopefully prevent abuse or neglect of the child. In some cases, the court will order therapeutic supervised visitation. This means the supervisor will be a mental health professional who works with the parent to improve his or her parenting skills, while also protecting the child.

Even when the noncustodial parent is granted unsupervised visitation, the parents may have a tense relationship and be unable to shuttle the child between them on their own, requiring the court to set up a neutral place of exchange or even monitored exchange. The neutral place will be a safe location for the parents to exchange the child. In a monitored exchange, a third person will also come to the exchange to ensure that the exchange occurs and nobody’s safety is compromised.

These options show that, even when the family relationships are less than perfect, New York courts try to honor parental rights while taking children’s physical and emotional health seriously.