When most people think of visitation and child custody issues, they envision fighting over the weekly parenting schedules, who gets the kids on the weekends, and what to do about the summer vacation. While these are some of the biggest aspects of any child custody and visitation, another important issue is discussing and agreeing on rules regarding virtual visitation.
What is virtual visitation?
Virtual visitation refers to the ability of a parent to contact a child by electronic means when the child is physically with the other parent. Though virtual visitation is often used in cases where one parent lives out of state and wants to maintain a relationship with the children who live with the primary custodial parent, virtual visitation can be useful and helpful in almost any custody case.
Why is virtual visitation important?
While everyone would prefer to tuck their children in bed in person, having at least some contact is better than nothing. Tackling the issue of virtual visitation is critical in cases where one parent lives far away from the primary physical custodian. If one parent is out of state, it is essential that the custody agreement allow for contact via FaceTime, Skype, videoconferencing, or at least basic telephone contact. This kind of interaction is a great way to maintain a relationship with children when you cannot physically be with them.
Examples of virtual visitation issues
Beyond long distance cases, even those that live in the same city might want to be sure that their custody agreement (and Court order) clarifies issues of virtual visitation. For instance, will texting the children be allowed when they are with the other parent? What about emails or phone calls? Assuming so, should there be a limit? Most parenting plans simply say that such electronic contact should take place during “reasonable” hours. While this might be fine in the vast majority of cases, if you have specific reason to worry about a spouse abusing this privilege, it can pay to have the matter fleshed out before signing off on any agreement.
Do states recognize virtual visitation?
Several states, including Utah, Wisconsin, Texas and neighboring North Carolina, have specific statutory language recognizing the importance of virtual visitation in child custody cases. In South Carolina, a similar proposal was proposed, but never implemented. However, many Family Court judges understand the importance of virtual visitation and, assuming the arrangements are reasonable, have no problem approving them.
If you are facing a child custody or visitation case, you should consult an experienced family law attorney to discuss the options available to you and to find out what steps you can take to increase your chances of obtaining a successful outcome. You are welcome to contact our office at (864) 598-9172 to discuss scheduling an appointment.