In some child custody cases, New Jersey parents who are unable to see their children in person as often as is ideal might have some form of “virtual visitation” with the child. This is simply the practice of keeping in touch with children using technology that may range from the old-fashioned phone call to more up-to-date methods of contact such as Skype or instant messaging. Some jurisdictions refer to it as “electronic visitation” or “Internet visitation.”
Virtual visitation is often requested by a noncustodial parent who is moving away. From a legal standpoint, it is generally considered the same as regular visitation in that a person denied visitation with their child is unlikely to be granted virtual visitation rights either. Technology means that virtual visitation provides versatile opportunities for a child and parent to communicate. For example, a parent can assist a child with homework, “attend” one of the child’s events such as a game or performance, or connect regularly over social media all using technological tools.
However, virtual visitation does have potential disadvantages. Critics say that it might make a judge more likely to allow a parent to move away when such a relocation is not really warranted. For all its flexibility, it is still not the same thing as spending time with a child in person.
Virtual visitation is just one example of how the landscape of child custody is changing. However, parents will still wrangle over the same issues of custody, visitation and support. Often, these disputes arise out of concern for the child or fear of being cut off from the child. However, if parents can work together with each other and their attorneys to create a parenting plan that suits them both, they may be happier with the result than they would be with a judge’s decision.