When families divide, children may struggle to maintain a relationship with both of their parents, especially in a situation involving a relocation. Study after study confirms the importance of both parents’ involvement in their child’s life. According to this report, close to ten million children do not have standard face-to-face time with one of their parents. Virtual visitation is changing the way divorced parents communicate with their kids. The technology available is making it easier for non-custodial parents to keep in touch with their children in enriching, interactive ways.
Video conferencing is the most interactive type of virtual visitation technology. Services such as Skype are free and require only a computer with internet access and a webcam. Many parents also rely on email, instant messaging, text messaging, and websites such as Facebook and Twitter to stay in touch with their children.
Only a few states have laws regarding virtual visitation. Florida’s virtual visitation statute allows courts to decide relocation cases based on a range of factors, including the availability of virtual visitation. In contrast, Wisconsin’s statute specifically states that “[t]he court may not use the availability of electronic communication as a factor in support of a modification of a physical placement order or in support of a refusal to prohibit a move.”
While virtual visitation cannot replace actually being there with your kids, interacting with your child through a webcam is more personal and intimate than a standard phone call or a letter. Some argue that virtual visitation will be used as a replacement for in-person visits, but Florida’s statute explicitly states that “[e]lectronic communication may be used only to supplement a parent’s face-to-face contact with his or her minor child. Electronic communication may not be used to replace or as a substitute for face-to-face contact.”
If you have questions about virtual visitation or parental relocation, you may wish to speak with a qualified family law attorney.