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Courts consider 'virtual visitation'

Photo of Karen M. Lavin

Many Illinois residents know that divorce is extremely stressful. Furthermore, when the process ultimately splits a family apart, the issue of child custody and child visitation can come become important to parents.

According to a study for the National Center for State Courts, approximately 18 million children have separated or divorced parents. In addition, 17 million children have parents that were never married. Twenty-five percent these children have a parent living in a different city. Because 75 percent of single mothers will move at least once, research ultimately shows that around 10 million children do not have regular face-to-face interactions with one of their parents.

Fortunately, technology provides a way for some divorced or separated parents to keep in touch with their children. "Virtual visitation" is a newer family law term, which refers to the right of a non-custodial parent to have electronic communication with his or her children. These type of visitation cases emerged in the 1990s as technology began to evolve. Today, they are becoming more and more common.

Illinois was the most recent state where virtual visitation became law in 2010. So far, six states have laws regarding electronic visitation rights. Also, 22 more states are in the process of adding similar laws. In states where this is an option, the court may decide the frequency and duration of visitation. Additionally, many protections have been put in place to ensure that the visitation periods are safe for the child.

Critics of these laws indicate that virtual visitation gives some non-custodial parents an excuse to move away. However, as long as family law courts continue to look out for the best interests of the child, virtual visitation can enhance communications between parents and children that are separated by distance.

If you are a parent that is struggling with child custody or visitation challenges, virtual visitation is something that you may want to look into.

Source: The Washington Times, "Virtual visitation: a sensible child custody option," Myra Fleischer, April 15, 2012

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