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Virtual visitation and child custody laws


In situations where custodial and non-custodial parents must form agreements regarding the future care and upbringing of their children, technology is finding a place regarding visitation arrangements. If the parent who has physical child custody moves out of state or otherwise adopts a lifestyle change that makes it impossible for a non-custodial parent to see a child in person, virtual visitation may be deemed appropriate. At least six states have enacted virtual visitation laws, allowing the court to include it in child custody orders.

When a visit between parent and child must occur in a virtual venue, internet technology and electronic devices can be used to make it happen. Parents and children can email or use video chats or texting devices to correspond and "visit" each other without being physically present. Typically, a non-custodial parent with existing visitation rights may request virtual visits if the custodial parent moves away with the child, thereby interfering with a current agreement.


These types of visits are meant to be supplemental as opposed to replacements for parent/child interaction after divorce. Both parents must agree that virtual contact will be encouraged and supported and that all communications are to remain uncensored. Parents should not assume that the court will approve virtual visits if in-person visits were already being withheld or restricted.

Many say virtual visits have a great potential to bolster relationships between children and their non-custodial parents. Moms and dads can use video chat to read bedtime stories to their children. Parents and kids can also connect through social media networks throughout the day to keep in closer touch and be more active in the day-to-day moments of each other's lives. Because the laws vary in each state, a parent wishing to discuss child custody and virtual visitation may contact a family law attorney to address the issue.

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