What is virtual visitation?

When a court rules on the matter of child custody, it could order that one of the parents is awarded virtual visitation. As its name suggests, virtual visitation involves the parent using technology to stay in touch with a child. This might include instant messaging, email or video calling. Florida is one of several states that have enacted laws to allow judges to order virtual visitation.

Like in all child custody matters, the court considers the child's best interests when it determines whether to order virtual visitation for a parent. Also called electronic or Internet visitation, laws regarding virtual visitation are not meant to replace face-to-face parenting time. The goal is to extend the visitation rights of parents. A court is not likely to grant virtual visitation if traditional visitation is not allowed, because these two types of visitation are similar.

Each parent involved in the visitation order is typically required to allow and encourage the visits, to make this type of visitation available within reason and to allow the child to have uncensored communication during the visits. While instant messaging and email are more technologically advanced forms of communication than the telephone, virtual visitation might also include the use of social media, photo-sharing and private document websites.

While a parent may request virtual visitation in a new child custody or visitation case, a noncustodial parent could request virtual visitation if the custodial parent plans to move or relocate with their child, causing an interference with an existing visitation order. Parents who are unsure about how to request virtual visitation with their children may talk to their attorneys about the process to gain a better understanding of how it works and to determine if it is the best option for their circumstances.

Source: Findlaw, "Child Custody ", November 18, 2014

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