Thursday, September 20th 2018

Virtual Visitation: Keeping Divorced Parents and Kids In Touch

The divorce rate in the United States is often cited as at least 50 percent, a daunting statistic for those considering marriage. However, the most recent census data puts the figure a bit lower, around 36 percent. Despite the decline, divorce and family law affects many adults and children in the U.S. Visitation rights are often a point of contention in divorce agreements, especially when the parent with primary custody seeks to move out-of-state. Ten years ago, most divorces ended in one parent getting sole custody, usually the mother. Today, an increasing amount of divorces result in joint custody of the children. In states with more restrictive rulings on this issue, if the move is good for the parent, it is considered good for the child(ren) as well, and the other parent is faced with the task of proving it would be detrimental to their relationship. In more lenient states, the custodial parent has to prove the move would not harm the relationship.

Recently, though, the use of internet video technology has changed the way some courts deal with visitation rights. Last year, Illinois made it legal for judges to enforce “virtual visitation,” where parents talk to their children using online video chat programs like Skype, iChat, or Google Voice. This option allows parents to keep in touch with children who have been moved far away and is one step beyond a mere voice telephone call. Utah was the first state to adopt similar legislation in 2004 when a father fought for guaranteed virtual visitation rights when his ex-wife wanted to move to Wisconsin. He now runs the website In 2010, a New York judge ruled that a mother who wished to move with her children to Florida must allow their father to communicate with them via Skype. Florida, Texas, North Carolina, and Wisconsin also have virtual visitation laws. Contact over the internet can also be used in situations where the parent hasn’t been granted in-person visitation, or if the parent is incarcerated. It is especially helpful when the parent with custody is uncooperative—as much as 77 percent of non-custodial fathers face “some form of visitation interference,” according to the Huffington Post.

However, some critics say virtual visitation will lead judges to allow more move-aways and allow farther distances than they would if video chatting were not an option. They also stress that internet communication should supplement in-person visitations, not replace it. While video chatting, emailing, and text messaging certainly makes it easier for far-away parents to keep in touch, is it enough? Has the internet improved your ability to talk to your kids, or is it simply more impersonal and quick?

Posted by Nancy on February 17, 2010 at 12:58pm.

2 Responses to “Virtual Visitation: Keeping Divorced Parents and Kids In Touch”

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Hasan Ali, Rachel Lawrence. Rachel Lawrence said: Virtual Visitation: Keeping Divorced Parents and Kids In Touch [...]

  2. avatar Judith Stiles Clark says:

    Nancy: I loved this blog as well as all of your work. Divorce is a serious and many times devistating event. We know,first hand, that it does break the family no matter how hard the involved parties try to make it painless. It seems to me that anything which will help all of the members communicate could only be a great improvement over snail mail or a phone call. I wish I had Skype then I could be better in touch with my own grandchildren, whom I miss so much.

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