How does virtual visitation work?
Each parent needs a computer with Internet access and a digital camera connected to their computers to send live video images over the Internet. Typically a webcam is used. Webcams range in price from $25 to $400.
Over the years the technology has matured and has become significantly less expensive. Thus, some parents are using it to visit with their child on a semi-regular basis.
What is needed to make it work?
Cooperation between both parents are needed to make it work. It is not like email in that you can send when you want to and read it when you want to. Virtual visitation requires a setup by either you or your child at the exact moment of communication.
Why do some non-custodial parents want it?
When one parent wants to relocate, the disruption in visitation is not only traumatic for the child(ren) and the parent (who may lose touch), but a judge may even forbid the relocation. Children of parents living closer to one another are also faced with looking for ways to better integrate both parents into their daily lives. By having the ability to do video conferences with their child(ren) it allows the parent who's not there for everyday activities to still maintain a connection.
Parents can see:
--when their child is sick
--when their child is afraid
--when their child is happy
--share in excitement about an event
--when their child loses a tooth
--look into their faces to see growth and change over time.
What is the controversy surrounding Virtual Visitation
Some parents are considering "virtual visitation" via the Internet as part of the solution. While it is not a substitute for regular visits, "virtual visitation" can be part of a creative visitation agreement when the parties do not have the resources for frequent in-person visits. It can be particularly useful when one parent is seeking to relocate. On the other hand, some other custodial parents argue that the video conferencing is too complicated. Also, some custodial parents find it is not enough quality time.
Calls have been noted to vary from about 10 minutes to over an hour.
A divorced mother or father may have the desire to stay in touch with his child. There have been cases where mothers and fathers or those within the father's home feel it is a problem to use the high technology or can not get it working. Some individuals in father's rights groups or on thier own have pushed to to encourage family courts to consider virtual visitation to supplement in-person time in custody agreements. Those custodial parents who have time with their child feel it takes more time than is said before, during and after the call..time which is taken from their own custodial time with the child.
For non-custodial parents, virtual visitation is becoming an increasingly accepted way to stay in regular contact with their children, according to several family law experts.
By hands-on experience with the webcam equipment, a parent could see when a child has the opportunity to see the face of his/her non-custodial parent on the other end of the video camera. Many say it is an improvement over the telephone for the child to see their divorced parent's smiling face looking at them with love, compared to only hearing it.
Some U.S. courts have initiated a virtual visitation scenario usually when the visitation is restricted because of distance and financial constraints.
What is the court saying about Virtual Visitation
The court may be more likely to enter an order for virtual visitation under circumstances in which the statutes of a particular state include provisions for virtual visitation. Likewise, an objecting parent may be less likely to litigate against virtual visitation, if the applicable statutes include virtual visitation for divorcing families.