Virtual visitation is a modern way for parents to meet with their children under child visitation laws. It allows a non-custodial parent to meet with their child through the use of internet technology, also called “e-visitation” or “e-access.” Virtual visitation refers to visitation by use of video-chat applications such as Skype, and can also include visitation through instant messaging, text messaging, e-mail messages, and telephone conferences.
Virtual visitation is becoming an increasingly popular form of child visitation, as allows more and more non-custodial parents to maintain frequent visitation with their child. It is especially popular for non-custodial parents who live far away from their child. It allows the parent to have visitation without having physical custody of the child, It can also be convenient for parents because it prevents their own direct contact, which can help them avoid future altercations.
Currently, virtual visitation is available in Florida, Illinois, North Carolina, Texas, Utah, and Wisconsin. In July of 2009, 22 additional states began to revise legislature which would allow virtual visitation. In each state, laws regarding virtual visitation vary. In most states the judge will typically create a schedule for what days and times e-visitation can occur, and how long sessions can last. Individuals should consult with an attorney about their state’s virtual visitation laws.
A judge will not allow virtual visitation if it puts the child in danger. For instance, if the non-custodial parent has a history of substance abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, or illegal activities, virtual visitation would not be prescribed. However, there are many situations where virtual visitation can be very useful, such as:
- Any time it is in the best interests of the child. E-visitation is allowed only when it does not significantly interfere with the child’s life-routine in a negative way.
- When the child and parent live far away. When parents and children live in different states or countries, virtual visitation is a convenient method of visitation that also reduces travel costs.
- Situations that require more frequent contact. If a parent and child need to spend more time together, e-visitation can be a safe and convenient mode of visitation.
When the courts award virtual visitation rights, the custodial parent provides the other parent with their e-mail address and other contact information, and parents are required to notify each other about any changes in contact information. They are also required to respect each other’s privacy rights, and parents cannot interfere during e-visitation sessions. The parents may decide what times the e-visitation webcam sessions occur, or the court could designate the times.
If you want to know if virtual visitation is right for your family, the first thing to do is to ask the judge what e-visitation rights are available. In some states, like New York and California, there is not specific legislature in place regarding virtual visitation.Still, many judges are still in favor of allowing for more frequent and convenient visitation by allowing for e-visitation. Talk to your family law attorney to find out more about your virtual visitation rights.