Robert G. Smith, PLLC

The benefits and drawbacks of virtual visitation

In today's advanced technological environment, the rights of some divorced parents are being impacted by what is called virtual visitation. This is a way for non-custodial parents who are not physically present to continue their relationship with their children by using tools such as email, social media sites, webcams and video conferencing. It seeks to supplement in-person visitation between non-custodial parents and their children, not replace it. New York judges have already began to use this method as a way to extend parental visitation rights.

Virtual visitation has many benefits. These include providing non-custodial parents and their children the opportunity to communicate daily about their lives, so that they can enjoy sharing such as things as a child's award or a child losing a tooth and so that the parent can continue to be involved in the child's daily life by helping with homework, a special project or even reading the child a bedtime story. Virtual visitation might even allow a parent who is not physically present to witness a child's athletic competition, recital or birthday party as it happens.

There are concerns, however, that virtual visitation could be misused by custodial parents who seek to move far away from an ex-spouse and in whose case the court would otherwise rule against child relocation. Another concern is that virtual visitation might be used to replace traditional face-to-face time. Judges, however, continue to first consider the best interest of the child when awarding visitation rights.

The impact of virtual visitation can be far-ranging in matters of child custody issues. Many states have passed legislation specific to virtual visitation and others are considering it. Other states, such as a New York, do not have specific legislation but are already using the tools available for virtual communication as a way to enhance parent-child relationships after a separation or divorce.

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