Virtual Child Visitation Laws

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What is Virtual Visitation?

Virtual visitation is a relatively new development in child custody and visitation law. It basically allows non-custodial parents to communicate with their child through the use of internet technology. It is also called “e-visitation” or “e-access”. 
 
The term “virtual visitation” typically refers to video-chat applications such as Skype, but may also include electronic visitation through the use of:
 
·        Instant message and text messaging
·        E-mail messages
·        Telephone conferences
 
Virtual visitation is rapidly gaining support as a means for non-custodial parents to maintain frequent contact with their child or children. It can be very beneficial for separated parents who live far from one another. It allows the non-custodial parent to interact with the child without actually having physical custody of the child. Also, e-visitation can prevent or avoid further altercations between the parents while allowing for visitation time.    

Which states currently allow virtual visitation?

Virtual visitation is currently available in the following 6 states: Florida, Illinois, North Carolina, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin. As of July of 2009, 22 other states were currently revising legislature which would allow virtual visitation. Check with an attorney to see if virtual visitation is allowed in your jurisdiction. 
 
State laws regarding virtual visitation rights will vary from state to state. However, in most states that allow it, the availability of virtual visitation is usually not a main factor when a judge makes child custody and visitation rulings. Also, the judge will typically create a schedule outlining at what days and times the e-visitation can occur, and for how long the sessions may last.

Under what circumstances is virtual visitation available?

If your state allows virtual visitation, you should inquire as to whether you qualify for such visitation rights. E-visitation is normally prescribed under the following circumstances:
 
A judge will NOT allow virtual visitation where it presents a danger to the child. For example, if the non-custodial parent has previous issues involving abuse or illegal activities, virtual visitation will probably not be allowed. It is also likely to be withheld if the parent has a history of sexual abuse or stalking the child or other parent. 

How does a virtual visitation session usually work?

If the court has awarded virtual visitation rights, then the custodial parent is required to provide the non-custodial parent with the child’s e-mail address or other contact information. Parents are required to notify each other of any changes in contact information. They must respect the privacy rights of all parties involved and cannot interfere during e-visitation conferences.
 
They will usually notify one another by e-mail first in order to designate a time period during which the webcam communication will take place.  Sometimes the court itself will designate the appropriate times for virtual visitation sessions. 

How do I obtain virtual visitation rights?

The first thing you should do is to determine whether your state allows virtual visitation. If it does, then you should ask the judge whether it is possible to include e-visitation rights as part of the visitation schedule. If your state does not currently allow e-visitation, you may wish to write to your state’s lawmakers, as several states are already undergoing the process of implementing virtual visitation laws.
 
If you already have a set visitation schedule, you can always ask the court to modify the custody or visitation order to allow for e-visitation provisions. This may involve a brief hearing to determine eligibility.

Do I need a lawyer for virtual visitation rights?

Virtual visitation can be very important for parents who are seeking to continue contact with their child. Obtaining e-visitation rights is a very crucial in any child custody hearings. If you have an issue regarding virtual visitation laws, you should contact a family lawyer immediately. They will be able help determine your eligibility for virtual visitation, and will help create a workable virtual visitation schedule with the judge. Be sure to inquire about e-visitation with the attorney before you proceed with a custody hearing. 

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Last Modified: 06-20-2011 03:00 PM PDT

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