Talks about virtual visitation aren’t new, but virtual visitation as a viable option in child custody cases is becoming more realistic and more common every day.
First, you may be wondering just what virtual visitation is.
Many people think of it as the next best thing to seeing your children in person. When parents can’t have face-to-face visits, they can have visits electronically – via email, instant message, video chats, texting, and more.
Most commonly, it allows parents who live in different locations than their children to be more consistent presences in their lives. However, it has been an option for parents who are incarcerated, parents who can’t see their children because of domestic violence disputes, or simply to supplement in-person visits for parents living in or near the same locations as their children.
So, why is it a more viable option today? For several reasons, ranging from affordable technology to state legislation.
Today, your children are used to technology. In most cases, online communication, generally through email or social networks, is their preferred method of communication. Even if it’s not preferred, chances are it’s second nature for them.
With technological advances, it’s also becoming easier for parents. Email is easy to use, and anyone can set up an address with services like Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, and more. Video chats or phone calls via computer are available for anyone with Internet access in just minutes through downloadable applications like Skype.
The services above, such as Gmail and Skype, are free for users. Skype may even make calls more affordable than by phone, as calls through your computer can be from any location – either between computers within this country or outside of it.
Aside from these services, computers themselves are becoming more affordable. Most new laptops come equipped with the webcams necessary for video communication.
Of course, reliable Internet connections themselves are also becoming more affordable. A broadband Internet connection is a standard in many homes today.
With these factors in play, virtual visitation can result in little to no additional costs for today’s families.
Many states now have legislation that allows computer visits or other electronic communication for children and non-custodial parents.
Chicago is one of the most recent states to pass virtual visitation legislation in August 2009. Jeffrey M. Levig co-authored the legislation, and virtual visitation is now in more than half of the cases at his firm.
Other states with legislation include Florida, North Carolina, Texas, Utah, and Wisconsin. Bills are pending in Missouri and Ohio.
If a state doesn’t have legislation, they can still offer virtual visitation as an option, turning to the board discretion of family law judges.
Don’t forget the specifics
Virtual visitation can open up new doors for both parents and family law attorneys, but orders including virtual visitation are also often new territory for both sides.
Clients and attorneys should be prepared to carefully think through the specifics of their virtual visitation orders.
A few areas to keep in mind include:
- Detail the type of virtual visitation you’d like, whether this be email, video chats, instant messaging or another method.
- Specify when the visitation will take place, including dates and times and how long it should last.
- Think about the logistics of the visitation. Will it be private, or will the custodial parent be involved? Who will pay for the computer and Internet access? How will you enforce that the visitation occurs?
For more information and updates about virtual visitation, visit www.InternetVisitation.org.