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."

What Counts as Virtual Visitation?

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.

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:

  • When it is in the child’s best interest: Virtual visitation is only prescribed where the practice will not seriously interfere with the child’s well-being and upbringing. This the main factor in determining e-visitation rights
  • Separations involving long distances: If the parents are located in different counties or states, virtual visitation can be an effective method to reduce travel expenses and visitation costs
  • Situations requiring increased contact: E-visitation can be a safe and effective way to encourage increased contact between a non-custodial parent and the child

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?

First, determine whether your state allows virtual visitation. If it does, then a non-custodial parent should ask the judge whether it is possible to include e-visitation rights as part of the visitation schedule. If they already have a set visitation schedule, that parent 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?

Obtaining e-visitation rights is a very crucial in child custody hearings concerning long distance parents, or situations where the parents are not exactly amicable. If you have an issue regarding virtual visitation laws, you should contact a child visitation lawyer immediately. An attorney will be able help determine your eligibility for virtual visitation, and will help create a workable virtual visitation schedule with the judge.