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Virtual visitation in child custody cases

Thanks to global trade expansion and an increasingly mobile workforce, more divorced parents are relocating to new cities, states, and even countries. According to the National Center for State Courts, nearly 35 million children in the U.S. have divorced or unmarried parents and approximately 25% of them have a parent that lives in a different location.

At one time, if a custodial parent moved away with the kids or the noncustodial parent moved for work or personal reasons, then the relationship between the children and the noncustodial parent would have been affected. These days, technological advances have made it possible for everyone to remain in frequent touch via virtual visitation.

How does virtual visitation work?

With virtual visits, parents and children can use texting, email, social media, and video conferencing to correspond with and “visit” each other without having to be physically present. When a move or similar event places a noncustodial parent in a different geographic location, they may request virtual visitation rights to maintain contact with their children.

Virtual visitation and the law

Utah was the first state to enact virtual visitation into law. In 2004 it began to permit non-custodial parents to visit their children using electronic mediums such as Skype and other webcam-based technologies. Like most innovative legislation, it immediately aroused controversy.

Supporters of virtual visitation rights point out that it preserves the strength of the parent-child bond in cases when living in separate locations prevent both parties from regular in-person visits. Instead of once a month or a few times a year, noncustodial parents can have “face time” with their children on a routine basis.

Virtual visitation opponents argue that technology is actually degrading the quality of the parent-child relationship because it is comparatively impersonal and remote. They also claim that the option of virtual visitation makes custodial parents more inclined to relocate for work or personal reasons, instead of remaining in place so that their former spouse can enjoy a regular visitation schedule.

These concerns, although valid, discount the fact Skype, FaceTime, and Google Hangouts will never come close to mimicking the quality nature of traditional, in-person visitation between parent and child. Even states with laws regarding virtual visitation recognize the fact, and no family court judge would allow a custodial parent to move away with the kids simply because the noncustodial parent has the option of virtual visitation.

If you are preparing to divorce and/or facing a child custody action, then contact a New York family law attorney. If relocation is inevitable for you or your spouse, then your attorney can help you achieve a virtual visitation arrangement that protects the strength of your relationship with your children. Jayson Lutzky is an experienced divorce and family law attorney with an office in the Bronx. If you have any questions about visitation or child custody, then set up a free initial in-office consultation by calling 718-329-9500 or visiting www.MyNewYorkCityLawyer.com.

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