Supervised Visitations in Louisiana – What to Know
When it comes to child custody cases, the Louisiana courts assume it is healthier and more beneficial for both parents to have shared custody of a child or for the non-custodial parents to exercise their rights to visitation or temporary custody of their children.
But there are times when temporary custody or visitation is not in a child’s best interest. When these conditions threaten a child’s physical, mental, or emotional well-being, these assumptions must be reevaluated, and updated terms like supervised visitations need to be set in place. Without legal intervention, a custody case can spiral out of control and have tragic results.
The Worst-Case Scenarios of Child Custody Exchanges
In 2018, a father met his ex-wife in an Alexandria Walmart parking lot to pick up his daughter. It was her second birthday, and he had a party planned. The mother came to the custody exchange with her two other small children.
The estranged couple were in the middle of a contentious divorce. The father sat down in her passenger seat. And with her three children sitting in the backseat, the mother shot her ex-husband in the chest, killing him.
She claimed self-defense, but in February 2022, a jury in Rapides Parish rejected this defense and found her guilty of second-degree murder and obstruction of justice.
This is just one of many headlines announcing violent crimes associated with custody exchanges.
October 2022: The Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office reported that a 25-year-old father asked his ex-girlfriend for a weekend visit with their two young children in Hammond, La. When his ex-girlfriend showed up at the custody exchange with a male acquaintance, the father began shooting at the car occupied by the mother, her male acquaintance, and their two shared children.
They fled the scene, but the father and a friend chased them a short distance to the house of the acquaintance’s father. A brawl ensued, and the father shot and killed the male acquaintance and shot and wounded the acquaintance’s father when he came to help his son.
The father was charged with second-degree murder, two counts of attempted second-degree murder, and two counts of cruelty to juveniles. He was also charged with being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm.
September 2022: During a custody exchange, a 34-year-old Covington father shot and killed his ex-wife and her boyfriend in front of his house as his 15-year-old daughter looked on. The altercation started after the 15-year-old did not want to stay at her father’s house. The father walked inside and emerged with a handgun, shooting the couple in their car.
The mother and her boyfriend tried to escape the attack but only made it down the street before rolling to a stop after hitting a trash can and a mailbox. The man died at the scene. The mother died after being transferred to the hospital.
August 2022: While in the middle of a bitter custody battle over their two-year-old son and four-year-old daughter, the 31-year-old mother damaged her ex’s vehicle and Facetimed him, ranting her plans to kill their children and herself instead of going to jail. Then, she stabbed her son and daughter and made several video calls to her ex, showing him how she slit both of his children’s throats and telling him how it was his fault.
The father called the police and rushed over to her house. After finding her door locked, he broke a window and climbed inside to struggle with his knife-wielding ex, who bit him before he managed to escape with both children and take them to a local New Orleans hospital where his daughter was pronounced dead, and his son underwent surgery and survived in critical condition.
Once the children were gone, the mother turned the knife on herself, making superficial cuts to her collarbone area. She was arrested, treated for her wounds, and charged with second-degree murder, attempted murder, and second-degree cruelty to a juvenile.
The incident happened during an ugly custody battle. The Father pleaded that he just wanted his kids to live in a healthy environment.
Understanding Supervised Visitations Before Tragedy Occurs
Incidents like these litter the calendar, and happen all over the state of Louisiana. Grab a police blotter from any month of any year. In November 2021, a Caddo Parish father shot and killed his daughter’s ex-boyfriend after the young couple engaged in a heated custody battle. On Thanksgiving night, an Opelousas woman is shot and wounded during a child custody exchange in a Walmart parking lot. The victim is the child’s aunt.
Stories like these are why it is the primary duty of a Louisiana family court to protect the best interests of the children residing in the state. When children are in any family-related legal issue, the focus is keeping the child away from potential peril that may cause physical, mental, or emotional harm.
In fulfilling this mission, it can mean ignoring or ruling against the requests or wishes of either one or both parents. Family court judges often hand down unpopular decisions, and a parent/child relationship being restricted to supervised visitation is one of these unpopular decisions.
Simply defined, supervised visitation is a court order requiring a parent to only engage with their child under the supervision of a qualified adult. The visits may be ordered to occur in designated facilities.
Assigned social workers can accompany children and monitor the entire visit at a designated area or the homes of noncustodial parents until children are returned to custodial parents. Relatives, friends, or acquaintances may serve as monitors for the visits if all the parties involved can agree on a person.
Reasons for Supervised Visitation
There are several reasons why supervised visitation is ordered. The most common reasons for a noncustodial parent to receive an order of monitored visitation include:
- Histories of child neglect or abuse, whether physical, emotional, or sexual abuse
- Evidence of abusing a co-parent, whether physical, emotional, or sexual abuse
- Evidence of substance abuse
- Diagnosis of an uncontrolled mental illness that may manifest into a child’s harm
- Any risk of a parent abducting a child
- An absent parent trying to establish a new relationship
- Any record of familial situations that may pose a danger
Noncustodial parents understanding the court’s duty to protect children is essential. Following a court’s ruling can benefit all parties if parents spend this time fortifying stronger relationships with their children.