Making Virtual Visitation Part of Your Parenting Plan
In 2012, the State of Florida became one of six states to introduce legislature regarding virtual visitation, i.e., the creative use of modern tools of technology to enhance parenting time in cases of separation and divorce. According to the amended statute, a court can order electronic communication between a parent and child as part of a time-sharing plan.
Virtual communication can include phone calls, texting, video conferencing, connecting through social media venues and any other technology-based communication available. Before ordering virtual visitation, a Florida court must consider if such action is in the best interest of the child.
There are many benefits to including electronic communications in your time-sharing plan with the other parent, including:
- Child’s control — Since technology remains largely in the bailiwick of the under 20 generation, children are likely to feel a higher level of control, and therefore comfort, with the visitation format. This also presents the opportunity for the child to teach the parents how to use the tools, which offers a deeper level of engagement between parent and child.
- Privacy — Texting, photo sharing and other non-verbal communications offer children and parents some degree of privacy in their interaction. In cases where abuse or violence has been present, communications might be monitored or limited to public venue.
- Time — The availability and prevalence of smart phones allows spontaneous and frequent communication. Parents and children can share brief messages, photos and texts throughout the day rather than being restricted to weekends.
- Distance — Skype, FaceTime and other forms of instant communication are free and unrestricted by distance. This allows parents and children to speak on a regular basis regardless of location.
The Florida courts recognize that the ready availability of electronic communication can make it easier for one parent to relocate. The language of the statute is clear that virtual visitation is not meant to be a substitute for physical time spent with each parent. If you are separating from your spouse and need help creating a time-sharing plan, consult a divorce attorney for practical advice.