Technology has changed almost every aspect of our lives. It is not surprising that it is impacting the legal system and Family Law in pretty signficant ways as well. As times change, so do the manner in which courts will deal with family law matters such as parenting plans and time-sharing arrangements. It is estimated that three out of every four divorced parents will relocate at least once while the child is growing up placing distance between the child and the non-relocating parent. The concern is that the parent who is not relocating will lose touch with their children over a period of time because of such separations.
A partial solution to this problem has been implemented in six states including Florida and is referred to as "virtual visitation." Virtual visitation allows the either parent to have rights to communicate with their child by electronic means when the child is not with them. This allows fequent and continuing contact by technological means, such as webcam/Skype/Facetime. It's a much less expensive form of visitation than requiring a parent to get on a plane or drive hundreds of miles just to see their children.
Virtual visitation obviously cannot be considered a substitute for personal face-to-face contact with the child. It still must be governed by courts, and family law attorneys will still have to work with their clients in coming up with agreements that would be acceptable to all parties involved. In some cases, webcam/skype can augment parenting time, for the periods that the child with with the other parent. It doesn't have to be an "either/or" proposition.
Certain critics of virtual visitation feel that parents will use it in order to get the court to approve of relocations that otherwise would not be permitted. Whether one does or does not agree with such a criticism, courts still must keep the best interests of the child as their primary concern when formulating any type of visitation order.
It appears that technology is here to say. But, that does not mean that family law time-sharing decisions should receive any less consideration.
Source: The Washington Times, "Virtual visitation: a sensible child custody option," by Myra Fleischer, April 15, 2012