"Virtual visitation" is a form of child visitation that requires the use of technology to communicate over long distances. Virtual visitation is usually detailed as part of a parenting plan agreement. It could also be included in the child custody order or visitation order.
Requests for virtual visitation are generally made by the non-custodial parent. These requests are often made when the custodial parent relocates with a child. Moving can interfere with their existing parental visitation rights. The use of virtual visitation is becoming more commonplace in all forms of co-parenting arrangements. In some cases, the custodial parent will request virtual visitation when the child is spending significant time with the non-custodial parent such as during spring break week or during the summer break.
Virtual visitation makes co-parenting from long-distance easier. Read on to learn more about virtual visitation arrangements.
Virtual Visitation Law
"Internet visitation" or "electronic visitation" grew in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic. Visits can take place via popular apps such as Zoom, Skype, and FaceTime. These are video conferencing apps that use webcams. Virtual visits can also take place via phone calls. Additionally, standard electronic communication tools, such as email, text messaging, or instant messaging, can assist with communication between parent and child. Parents and older children also maintain communication through the messaging features of social media websites (like Facebook or Instagram).
States have different virtual visitation laws. Indiana, Utah, Wisconsin, and North Carolina passed laws allowing for electronic visitation. Florida and Illinois recognize virtual visitation as a supplement to traditional custody and visitation arrangements. Both states allow it in the parenting plan if both parents agree. But, it is not a substitution. Texas allows virtual visitation in visitation schedules.
Legislatures in many other states are considering passing similar laws. Don't worry if your state doesn't address virtual visitation. Most state courts will order such contact even if it is not addressed in the state code.
Virtual visitation laws supplement, but do not replace traditional, face-to-face parent time. These laws generally require each parent to:
- Permit and encourage virtual visits and make them reasonably available, and
- Allow uncensored communication with the child.
Courts will consider the best interests of the child when determining whether virtual visitation should be ordered. In some cases, no contact is necessary and appropriate (such as domestic violence cases). In that case, virtual visitation may also be denied because it may be emotionally harmful to the child.
In some cases, in-person visits aren't allowed. But, cutting off all contact could negatively affect the best interests of the child. These circumstances are ideal for allowing calls or video chats.
Benefits and Drawbacks of Virtual Visitation
There are both benefits and drawbacks to such arrangements. Access to virtual visitation provides some far-reaching benefits to enrich the parent-child relationship. Parents can be more involved in their child's lives, even from afar.
Parents can virtually:
- Read a bedtime story to their child
- Help with homework or a special project
- See subtle facial expressions of their child, such as a smile or frown, and the child can see the parent's expressions
- See a child show them a missing tooth, an award, or other special accomplishments
- Connect on social media sites as a way to talk about day-to-day occurrences
- Witness sporting events and other events as they are happening in real-time
Virtual visitation is a great option for parents to stay more involved in their child's life. These parents can maintain more regular contact with their child. Virtual visitation is a practical, low-cost option for non-custodial parents today.
Questions About Virtual Visitation? Talk to an Attorney
Visitation rights fall under the umbrella of family law. A family law attorney can help you understand your visitation and custody rights. Virtual visitation, while not always ideal, can be the next best thing to maintain contact with your child.
You can find out about virtual visitation by speaking with a child custody lawyer near you.
Can I Solve This on My Own or Do I Need an Attorney?
- Both parents can seek custody of their children — with or without an attorney
- An attorney can help get the custody and visitation agreement you want
- An attorney will advocate for your rights as a parent
A lawyer can help protect your rights and your children's best interests. Many attorneys offer free consultations.
Don't Forget About Estate Planning
Once new child custody arrangements are in place, it’s an ideal time to create or change your estate planning forms. Take the time to add new beneficiaries to your will and name a guardian for any minor children. Consider creating a financial power of attorney so your agent can pay bills and provide for your children. A health care directive explains your health care decisions and takes the decision-making burden off your children when they become adults.