Use of Virtual Visitation Increasing

When a marriage is ending, there are many issues for divorcing couples to consider. Child custody and visitation agreements are one of the most emotional of those issues to decide. It can also be one of the most contentious, especially if one parent is considering moving some distance away from the other.

For children, the divorce process is difficult to understand and the effects can be long-lasting. According to a University of Pennsylvania study, children can experience feelings of vulnerability, powerlessness, anger and even a sense of grief for the parent who is no longer around.

After the divorce, the non-custodial parent can find him- or herself struggling to keep the parental bond intact. But more courts and more states are leveraging technology in an effort to help parents and children cope with divorce and maintain the parent-child bond.

Virtual visitation, also referred to as electronic visitation or e-visitation, allows non-custodial parents alternative methods of seeing their children. From texting to video chats, parents are finding more creative ways to stay in touch.

Though used by many courts in different jurisdictions over the years, a number of states have codified virtual visitation. There are currently six states that officially recognize some form of e-visitation - Florida, North Carolina, Texas, Wisconsin, Utah and Illinois. According to InternetVisitation.org, a website which focuses on legislative efforts concerning virtual visitation, at least 20 other states are in the early stages of passing laws making e-visitation a right.

Utah was the first state to enact legislation and Illinois recently became the latest. In Illinois, the court can award these electronic visits unless harmful to the mental, physical or emotional health of the child. According to the law, visitation may include, "telephone, electronic mail, instant messaging, video conferencing or other wired or wireless technologies via the Internet, or another medium of communication" that can be used at times and conditions determined by the court. Of course, parents don't need a court order to contact their children electronically, but such orders can be useful to clarify conditions when there are disagreements between parents.

While some are concerned about virtual visitation replacing in-person visits, these laws are designed to be a supplement to time parents and children spend together as opposed to an outright replacement.

Working With an Attorney

For those who are considering divorce, facing child custody, visitation or parenting time issues, it is important to discuss your case with an experienced divorce attorney who can advise you of all your available options.