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Virtual visitation changes the child custody playing field

Technology has changed the way people communicate, keep abreast of the news, shop and work. It now may play a role in the way people parent their children. Virtual visitation is slowly making its way into the parenting plans that are hammered out through divorce or separation as a way for a parent and child to stay in touch when they live far apart.

A report issued by the National Center for State Courts detailed some alarming figures that netted out with the fact that almost 10 million children in the United States do not have regular face time with at least one parent. For many of these children, it's due to a geographical divide.

Technology is now creeping into the child custody and visitation decisions handed down by many family courts across the country. Although the terminology may differ, six states now have virtual visitation laws on the books, and 22 states are in varying stages of enacting such laws. These laws give family court judges the leeway to order electronic communication as part of the visitation plans for non-custodial parents. Judges can mandate the duration and frequency of such communication, just as they would with regular physical visitation arrangements.

Virtual visitation is meant only to supplement face-to-face interaction and not replace it, but it still has its share of detractors. Some say that parents may use virtual visitation as a legal argument that allows them to move away from the non-custodial parent where a court may otherwise rule against it. Others believe that the custodial parent may use video chats as an opportunity to spy on their ex-spouse.

With these current and proposed changes in child custody cases, retaining a legal professional who can advocate for the best interests of the child is critical. This addition to family law is ripe for exploitation although it does offer a host of benefits to children who live far away from a parent, in Louisiana or elsewhere in the country.

Source: The Washington Times, "Virtual visitation: a sensible child custody option" Myra Fleischer, Apr. 15, 2014

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