The rise of virtual visitation in family court

Texas is one of a growing number of states that allows “virtual visitation” between parents and child. With virtual visitation, one parent, usually a noncustodial parent who has relocated or lives far from the child to begin with, is able to spend time with the child using technology such as Skype, instant messaging or social media.

Although the phone call might still be an element of virtual visitation, these newer technologies offer a range of versatile ways for parents and children to spend time together. A parent can virtually attend an event that is meaningful for the child such as a recital. Social media can help keep children and parents connected on a daily basis about small things. Children can show parents tokens of accomplishment such as awards, and parents can see how their children are growing and changing with milestones like a missing tooth.

Some experts are wary about the role of virtual visitation because they fear it might encourage judges to approve a parental relocation that is not necessary. However, while virtual visitation certainly is not exactly the same thing as a child and a parent spending time together in person, it does seem to be on the rise. A judge is unlikely to approve to virtual visitation for a parent who has already been denied in-person visitation.

Disputes over custody and visitation often arise out of one parent’s fear of being denied access to their child after a divorce. However, some studies have found that children adjust better when a divorce is amicable and parents are able to cooperate. If one parent does have to leave the area for employment or another pressing reason, it might be necessary to modify the custody and visitation schedule. Virtual visitation might be one solution that allows the child more regular contact with the absent parent.