A typical divorce decree in Texas has stipulations about custody and visitation in case one of the parents moves more than 100 miles away from the other. There are numerous reasons why one parent would do so, such as family, a new job, or even a new relationship. No matter which parent moves for what reason, the parent without primary custody risks losing the most from being so separated from their children. Sadly, it is more often than not that in these situations, the non-custodial parent’s relationship with the children suffers the most.
Thankfully, technology has made this separation a little easier to handle. In addition to phone calls, parents can keep in contact with their children via texting, email, Facebook and other social media platforms, webcams, and Skype. This “virtual visitation” is becoming more and more common, and family law courts have even recognized it as a right non-custodial parents can claim in a divorce decree. To be more precise, some states have recognized the right to “have electronic communication with his or her children,” including Utah, Illinois, Florida, North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Texas. Twenty-two other states are currently in the process of implementing similar laws.
As a result, family law courts can rule on the frequency and duration for virtual visitation as part of the decree. Judges can even demand and enforce protections for the children in the event of physical or emotional abuse by prohibiting any electronic communication that could be harmful to the child’s mental, physical, or emotional health.
While there are plenty of pluses for virtual visitation, not everyone supports the idea or uses it honorably. Many parents have reported that the non-custodial parent have used it to spy on the other parent. They ask the kids to open up closets or dresser drawers and report what they see, or they ask the child to take a laptop with a webcam around the house for a little virtual tour. While it is sad some parents choose to use this method of visitation for evil instead of for the good it was intended for, custodial parents can fight against this in court if he or she has proof of the spying. This possibility is one of the reasons why the court wants to keep the same high standards they have for traditional visitation with virtual visitation.
Despite the possibility for parents to use it for their own personal agendas. virtual visitation has been found to greatly improve the relationship between parents and children over long distances. Here at Coker, Robb & Cannon, Family Lawyers, we’ve had cases in both Collin County and Denton County in which Judges have ordered virtual visitation for clients. While not a perfect solution, it does allow for parents to be more committed to parenting no matter how far away they are and can reduce the stress that comes with being a divorced family.