In a child custody context, virtual visitation refers to the right of a non-custodial parent to communicate with their child using electronic technology. It usually refers to real-time video or webcam conferences between the child and parent over the internet. Virtual visitation is also known as “e-visitation” or “e-access”.
Virtual visitation is quickly becoming an acceptable form of visitation. It is meant to supplement rather than replace actual physical custody of the child. It can be of great assistance when the parents are separated by long distances or where the child needs additional support. E-visitation can also include the use of other electronic communications, such as e-mails, text or instant messages, and telephone conferences.
Which Illinois statute covers virtual visitation rules?
Illinois is the most recent state to implement e-visitation provisions. These are covered in Sections 607 and 609 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. The Act defines electronic communication as the time a parent spends with their child through the use of communication tools including the internet, e-mail and other forms of communication. The main point is that the child is not in the parent’s actual physical custody.
According to Act, electronic communication between child and parent is subject to the following limitations:
The availability of non-availability of electronic communication is not allowed to be a factor when a court is determining whether a child may be removed by the custodial parent out of state
The court itself will determine under what times and circumstances e-visitation is appropriate
Thus, a court has discretion over when to award virtual visitation rights. They will most definitely not be awarded when it is not in the child’s best interest. Also, virtual visitation is not allowed if the non-custodial parent has a history of abuse or if there are issues with the child’s personal privacy.
What other states allow virtual visitation?
Virtual visitation is not available in all states. Besides Illinois, e-visitation is currently allowed in the following states: Florida, North Carolina, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin. However, as of 2009, 22 other states have already initiated legislation which would allow for e-visitation. Consult with an attorney if you are unsure of your jurisdiction’s child visitation laws.
How do I obtain rights to virtual visitation?
In Illinois, you should ask the judge at the child custody hearing whether virtual visitation is available. The judge will examine all the relevant factors and determine whether you are eligible to visit with your child via the internet. In general, more contact is better than less, so it is always best to raise the issue of virtual visitation even if you are unsure of the outcome.
If you already have an existing visitation schedule, you can always ask the judge to modify the visitation order to allow for virtual visitation. Virtual visitation rights are not automatically granted, so it is important that you take affirmative steps to secure your rights.
Do I need a lawyer for virtual visitation in Illinois?
Child custody and visitation issues are important and can have significant impacts on your child’s future. If you need assistance with visitation rights in Illinois, you should contact an attorney immediately. An attorney can help provide you with sound legal advice and representation if necessary. A seasoned family lawyer can help determine whether e-visitation is appropriate for your particular situation.