April 20, 2012

Parents: Would you consider virtual visitation?

Divorced parents in Michigan are increasingly mobile. The demands of a job and a career often require a parent to move away from the city where his or her children may live with their former spouse. In some cases, a parent must move very far away. Under these circumstances, traditional child custody is not a practical option and even regular visitation can be challenging.

Now, some parents have been exploring virtual visitation as a way to maintain contact and involvement in their children’s lives. Sometimes, it is the custodial parent who moves away, leaving their ex-spouse with difficulty in continuing to see the children.

The concept is actually relatively simple and relies on the easy availability of modern technology. Through video web cams, Skype and the use of social media like Facebook, as well as even simpler tools like email and texting, a child can “visit” with a far away non-custodial parent. Some courts have even specifically sanctioned this as a recognized visitation right of a non-custodial parent unable, for a short or long term, to be physically present for child visitation.

There are approximately 18 million children in the U.S. today whose parents are divorced or separated, with 17 million more whose parents were never married to begin with. About 25 percent of all these children have a parent who does not live in the same city as they do, making the situation fairly common. One estimate is that approximately 10 million children are unable to regularly visit in person with their non-custodial parent.

Even when both divorced and separated parents begin by living in the same city, that changes over time. In the event that the living situations and custody arrangements need to be modified, parents will want to consult an attorney.

Source: Washington Times, “Virtual visitation: a sensible child custody option,” Myra Fleischer, April 15, 2012