Supervised access and supervised access exchanges can offer some protection to women who are concerned about the safety of their children during access or their own safety as they exchange the children with their partner.
For example, if the access parent has a serious and unstable mental health issue, a drug or alcohol problem, has threatened to abduct the children or poses other safety issues to the children, or has not seen the children for a long period of time, the court may order supervised access.
If the primary parent has safety concerns for herself or has concerns the children might be exposed to inappropriate conduct by the access parent during the exchange, the court may order supervised exchanges.
Courts can order supervised access or exchanges under sections 34(1) and 34(2) of the Children’s Law Reform Act.
Access can be supervised either formally or informally. Informal access supervision happens when a family member, friend or member of the family’s community oversees the access between children and their non-primary parent. Exchanges can also be informally supervised in the same way.
Formal access or exchange supervision takes place in a supervised access centre. There are both government (Ministry of the Attorney General) and private centres. Private centres operate according to their own rules, which may be very similar to those governing MAG–affiliated centres, but the private centres are not accountable to the government.
Each adult participating in MAG’s program must complete an intake interview and agree to follow centre policies and procedures. User fees, which are on a sliding scale, are generally shared between the parents.
The objectives of supervised access through MAG’s Supervised Access Program are to:
- Provide a safe, neutral and child-focused setting in which children can spend time with their non-custodial parent or other family members
- Enhance safety for everyone
- Provide trained staff and volunteers who are sensitive to the needs of the child
- Provide reports of factual observations about the family’s use of the service
These centres can provide supervision of the access time, staggered drop off and pick up times, supervision of exchanges of children and escorts to people’s cars.
Access supervisors cannot make custody and access recommendations but can provide the parties or their lawyers with a report of factual observations of exchanges and access visits. There is a fee for the preparation of such a report.
Currently, MAG offers its supervised access program in 50 locations across Ontario. You can find the location in your community by visiting the MAG website: www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca.
MAG’s “Suggested Wording for Orders or Agreements” for supervised access/exchanges is provided on the “Supervised Access” page of the Ministry’s site under “What should I consider when making arrangements for supervised access?“