Virtual Visitation Has Benefits Raises Some Concerns


Statistics show nearly 10 million children of divorced or unmarried parents never have the opportunity to directly communicate with both of their parents. Yet, as advances in social media technology have spawned new ways for Georgia residents to communicate with each other and with the world, "virtual visitation" is becoming a reality for parents dealing with child custody issues.

Virtual visitation, as the term is used by courts, involves electronic communications between a parent and child, and may include everything from texting and emailing to using Facebook and webcam-conferencing utilities such as Skype. While virtual visitation isn't intended to supplant actual physical contact, it can help parents and children interact more frequently and more intimately than a phone call may allow.

For parents in these situations, enforcement of virtual visitation rights is every bit as important as physical visitation. A non-custodial parent may be awarded virtual visitation rights as part of the parenting plan, and the court may dictate details such as the frequency and duration of these virtual visits.

Some express concern that this technology could facilitate parents moving away and undermine the value of face-to-face contact with their children. Some non-custodial parents may even potentially abuse virtual visitation by using their children to gather information about their former spouse. Yet social media and related technology are not going away any time soon, proponents of virtual visitation are quick to note, and the sooner family courts reconcile themselves to this fact the sooner they can position themselves to deal with these issues in an informed manner.

Children are generally quick to adapt to new technology. Georgia courts may prove to be as flexible when it comes to recognizing the potential advantages of technology to bring parents and children closer together.

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