With the advancements in technology, compounded by increasing divorce rates, there is a growing phenomenon among divorce petitions and agreements to provide for a new type of visitation for non-custodial parents known as Internet Visitation, or Distance Visitation. As a parent entering into a divorce decree, ensuring access to children, through visitation of any means, will provide for a more powerful divorce outcome and benefit to children.
Internet Visitation, also commonly referred to as Distance Visitation or Virtual Visitation, has become a common element of many separation agreements and divorce decrees. For non-custodial parents, technology has provided an avenue in which to communicate with children who may be distanced from non-custodial parents for a variety of reasons. When working through the variety of elements necessary to a divorce settlement agreement, divorce attorneys, as well as their clients, are opening to the concept of Virtual Visitation with many courts allowing for such provisions as part of a final divorce decree.
While custodial parents do not commonly offer the opportunity, upfront, in a petition for divorce, Virtual Visitation, inevitably, will make its way into the final language of the divorce decree by way of the non-custodial attorney’s placement of the language into the legal documents. As a result, both custodial and non-custodial parents should be educated in the practice of Virtual, or Distance, Visitation and the parameters on which this child visitation is based.
While child visitation, ideally, should occur between child and parent on a personal level, there are an increasing number of children who are separated from non-custodial parents by geography. For these children, the absence of the non-custodial parent may prove emotionally and psychologically damaging. To improve the welfare of children, subject to a divorce, when distance in miles prevents personal visitation, non-custodial parents are turning to Webcams and Internet service in an effort to spend time with displaced children. As part of a divorce decree, the agreement to this Virtual Visitation is usually outlined, detailing the number of miles at which Virtual Visitation becomes effective, the days and times in which Virtual Visitation can take place between the child and the non-custodial parent, and, in some cases, the technology acceptable for such visitation and provisions for purchasing and maintaining Internet technology.
As a parent pursuing, or subject to, divorce, the varying options for Virtual Visitation are, essentially, limitless. For most parents, using the general child visitation guideline of distance over 100 miles provides for protection of all parties as most non-custodial parents are incapable of traveling 100 miles or more for personal visitation during the weekdays or on weekends. In addition to mileage stipulations, divorce decrees, providing for Virtual Visitation agreements, will generally follow a standard visitation guideline which allows for Webcam Internet visits with the non-custodial parent, during the daylight hours of rotating weekends.
Beyond days and geography stipulations, Virtual, or Distance, Visitation, for children and non-custodial parents, can be outlined within a divorce decree to include the technological basis on which visitation should take place and what party will be responsible for purchasing and maintaining the Internet and computer technology. As a general rule, the parent which creates the initial geographical barrier for visitation, is the parent held responsible for purchasing the required technology, including computer, monitor, Webcam and internet access. In other words, if the custodial parent is the parent who makes the initial geographical move away from the non-custodial parent, resulting in the need to implement Virtual Visitation, then it is the custodial parent who must purchase the necessary technology equipment, for both the child as well as the non-custodial parent.
When consulting a divorce attorney regarding matters contained within a divorce decree, and even a separation agreement, discuss the options of Virtual Visitation. Even when children are not separated by geography, it is, in most divorce cases, inevitable that children will, at some point, become separated by location. For this reason, including language pertinent to Virtual Visitation within the divorce decree will ensure protection in future situations involving the geographical displacement between children and the non-custodial parent.