In this case the Family Court was asked to determine whether to modify a visitation order to give the mother unsupervised visitation with her children.
In New York, visitation with a child is typically unsupervised. This means that the non-custodial parent is generally permitted time alone with the child and is free to do whatever he or she chooses to do with the child as long as it is not in violation of the custody order. If, however, the court determines that it is not safe for the child to spend time alone with the parent, then the court will order supervised visitation. Family Court will order supervised visitation when it determines that the child may be in danger if alone with the parent. For example, if the parent is struggling with alcohol or drug addiction, the court would likely require supervised visitation. If the parent has physically abused the child, the court may not want the parent to be alone with the child. Also, supervised visitation may be required if there is a concern that the parent may abduct the child.
In Spencer v. Killoran the mother did not have custody of her children. When the children were 6 years old, the court awarded custody to the cousins of the mother because of the mother’s abuse of alcohol. Three years later, the mother requested access to her children in the form of visitation. Not entirely convinced that the mother had stopped abusing alcohol, the court entered an order allowing the mother unsupervised scheduled visitation with her children with the stipulation that she was monitored daily for alcohol use for a period of 6 months. On two dates during the 6-month period, the mother tested positive for alcohol use. The cousins petitioned the court to modify the visitation schedule to require the mother to have only supervised visits. The court so ordered. However, the court did not set a supervised visitation schedule, and instead directed that the visitation would be as the mother and cousins agreed. The mother appeals, arguing that the court erred in modifying the previous visitation order.