Are There Legal Rules for Virtual Visitations with Parents?

Virtual Visitations are Becoming More Common. What Do You Need to Know?

Some parents do not have an ability to have frequent in person time with their children for reasons such as the long distance between residences, histories of problematic behaviors, or perhaps Covid related restrictions. Other parents may wish to increase contact between a non-residential parent and child beyond the regularly scheduled in person visits.

In these situations, virtual visitations can help. These are not so much a substitute for in person visits as they are a supplement to help maximize the child-parent bond and parenting role. Virtual visitations can take various forms. There are, however, some items to consider in terms of how to structure a visitation schedule and other parameters.

Child has a virtual visitation using FaceTime

How are Virtual Visitations Conducted?

One common form of virtual visitation is the video call, using something like Skype or Zoom. These can be scheduled on a regular basis between in person visits, or there could be an agreement to allow them to be done on a more open basis such as when the child desires to talk to the other parent. Video calls do require some advance scheduling, so one aspect to consider is whether they can be schedule directly between the child and parent, or should be scheduled between the two parents. Age of the child may be a factor to consider.

Other forms of virtual visitation include phone calls, texts, instant messaging, and emails. These forms of contact are generally not scheduled in advance but rather happen in real time as contact is desired.

A question for parents to consider in advance is to what degree such contact is to be encouraged or restricted. The more trust and cooperation there is between the parents, the more it may make sense to allow basically unlimited virtual contact (of course the parents may also want to agree on parenting related limitations such as not after bedtimes, during homework time, etc.).

Parents who live a long distance from each other are often limited by their circumstances to in person visits during the school’s summer, winter and spring breaks. Extended visits during those times can be great bonding times, but they still leave long periods of limited contact between those breaks. Setting up a system of virtual visitations allows for much more frequent contact and a stronger parental role.

How Would an Attorney Assist with Virtual Visitations?

If there are specific issues of concern with a parent, then you may want to discuss with your a family law attorney what restrictions on virtual visitation could best address those concerns. For instance, if a parent is unreliable as to keeping to schedules, regular video calls might not work well, but non scheduled virtual contact such as texting and calling might work better. If a parent has serious anger management or domestic violence issues, then video visits and emailing (with other parent cc’d) can provide an element of safety compared to in person visits, while allowing the visits to be easily supervised if that is needed.

Rules around appropriate virtual visitation in your case can be written into your parenting plan. In this way the arrangements can be specifically tailored to your situation and your child’s needs. A lawyer, social worker or child psychologist can help both with suggestions as to provisions that might help.

Family law lawyers see a wide spectrum of issues and solutions in their practices) and the drafting of provisions to carry out any agreements. Similarly, working with a child specialist may help the parents understand and agree on what arrangements are going to be most beneficial to their child.

As beneficial as these visits are, a lack of structure can turn this option into more of a headache than a convenience. Be sure to work with the other parent or seek outside help to create a plan that benefits the child and satisfies both parents.