Should Virtual Visitation Be an Option?

How can you still spend time with your child even if you can not physically be with him or her? Virtual visitation may be your solution. These visits with your child can include reading books, playing games, listening to your child practice an instrument and many other activities.  

For many of us, work has become virtual. We work at home thanks to computers and keep in touch with co-workers and customers thanks to smartphones and video services like Zoom or Skype. Would the same thing work for child visitation? 

Some of us are more productive employees when we are not commuting to a workplace and avoid the distractions of working in an office. But performing work in one location instead of another is not the same as relating to your child while physically being with them versus seeing them on a computer or smartphone screen. 

What is Virtual Visitation? 

It is contact between a parent and their child by electronic means. Some of the technology that may be used includes: 

  • Email and texts 
  • Video streaming such as FaceTime, Skype, and Zoom 
  • Phone calls 
  • Document and photo sharing  

Virtual visitation should not replace actual visitation. It is an additional way for parents and kids to stay connected when physically getting together is impossible or impractical. 

When is Virtual Visitation Brought Up? 

Virtual visitation proposals may come about in a couple of circumstances. It may be a temporary approach when a parent with visitation rights is dealing with a health or family crisis and cannot physically be with the child. It is a permanent issue when the custodial parent wants to move out of the area and offers this option to keep the other parent in touch with the child. 

When there is court-ordered visitation, and the parent with custody wants to move from the area, the parent with visitation rights could challenge that parent’s ability to live elsewhere or seek custody of the child.  

If the parents cannot come to an acceptable compromise, the issue will be decided in court. The moving parent may propose an altered schedule where the child physically visits for extended periods (instead of a day or two a week) with virtual access for the rest of the year. A judge would decide the issue based on the child’s best interests.  

Is Virtual Visitation Good or Bad? 

Depending on which side you are on, virtual visitation is: 

  • An added extra to “sweeten the deal” that provides the other parent with greater access than what might otherwise be legally mandated. Moves received judicial approval long before the internet and Zoom were developed, and virtual visitations are not explicitly required by statute 
  • A poor substitute for what the parent is entitled to have, which denies the parent and child what they both benefit from the most – a genuine, personal relationship 

As technology improves and people are more willing to move, virtual visitations will become a more common part of the mix when visitations are scheduled. 

How Should Virtual Visitations Be Handled? 

Like all visitations, both parents should live up to scheduled sessions. Virtual visits are far easier than physical ones, so a child may want to interact with the non-custodial parent more often than the schedule dictates. The child may want to chat or share something especially stressful or positive. 

The custodial parent should be flexible and act in good faith. They probably should not limit these unscheduled interactions unless they become a problem (it becomes the child’s excuse not to do chores or homework). If this happens, a frank conversation with the other parent requesting they limit their time online would be a good idea. 

If the virtual visitations become a pipeline the visiting parent uses to alienate your child from you, you should try to stop it. If it continues, taking the issue back to court may be needed to prevent this emotional manipulation from harming your relationship with your child. 

Get the Help You Need From Attorneys You Can Trust 

Visitation is best kept out of the courtroom and left in the hands of those who know the children best, the parents. Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C., lawyers often negotiate practical visitation solutions with attorneys representing the other parent. In more contentious cases, we make the case our client’s approach is in the child’s best interests. 

Work with an experienced family law lawyer from Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C., with an in-depth understanding of the Pennsylvania and New Jersey statutes and court procedures. Call us at (866) 349-4721 or book a consultation online now