Virtual visitation uses Internet technologies such as video conferencing using Skype, Hangouts, Face Time and other video calling apps to help keep the connection strong between parents when they live far apart. “Virtual visitation” is a way for divorced parents to communicate with their children via electronic means.” (IBLS) While Utah was the first state to legislate the authority of judges to include virtual visitation in divorce decrees, in 2001 in the case of Tennessee Court of Appeals. Burke v. Burke, the court approved a plan which would allow the mother to connect with her children using a web-cam as the parents had split custody with the father being the primary custodial parent.
Why virtual visitation?
Virtual visitation has become an important issue regarding child custody given that there are so many children in this country with divorced parents, and many of those divorced parents live in different cities. To encourage the maintenance of a nurturing, bonded relationship between the child and each of its parents, family courts can turn to Internet technology to keep parents and their children connected.
While virtual visitation might be assumed to apply to non-custodial parents who live a great distance away from the child, custodial parents can also use it while their child is away having visitation with the other parent. In situations when one parent is relocating far away from the other parent, courts may recommend the use of virtual visitation to allow the parent and child to both see and hear each other rather than just hear each other on the telephone.
What are the benefits of virtual visitation?
When both parents are being cooperative, virtual visitation can be an effective way for a child to stay connected to their other parent. Whether the sessions take place at bedtime with the other parent reading the child a book, at homework time as the parent quizzes their child on their multiplication tables the night before a test, or if the child is on a field trip and they use fact time to share their experience at the zoo with their other parent, virtual visitation helps to maintain that vital parental bond with their child.
What might be some of the negative aspects of virtual visitation?
If the co-parents have an adversarial relationship, one parent might make it difficult for the other to schedule time to meet with the child online, or one parent could interfere with the parenting time, and try to convince the court that the virtual visits are not in the best interest of the child.
One thing that virtual visitation is not supposed to be is a replacement for parent and child spending time together. Life can get busy, and parents may begin to rely on the convenience of racking open their laptop and having a visit with their child who lives far away with the other parent. But that child still misses their parent and wants to spend as much time as possible with them.
Deciding child custody is rarely easy. Living with the consequences is almost always challenging. At LaFevor & Slaughter, we work with families to put children first and work out a custody agreement that will help the child to thrive while maintaining a nurturing relationship with both parents. To discuss your child custody case with a Knoxville child custody attorney, you may call 865-272-4454. You can also schedule an appointment by filling out contact form.