Virtual Visitation – The Next Best Thing to Being There

As more marriages end in divorce and as more people move away from their childhood homes to live across the country, there is an increasing number of children who live hundreds, even thousands, of miles away from one of their parents. Many people decide that they would like to relocate after a divorce, but they also want to continue to be a part of their children’s lives. Although there have always been long-distancing parenting arrangements where the child or the parent flies over for a visit for Christmas or during summer vacation — phone calls and emails also allow parents and children to keep in touch between visits, but they are not a substitute for in-person interaction.

Can Skype be a substitute for an in-person visit?

Technology has given us another option ― visitation via Skype or another videoconferencing program. Videoconferencing is an attractive option for adults in many situations because it allows a deeper kind of interaction than a phone call. This kind of interaction is even more important for young children, who may have difficulty with the idea that a disembodied voice on a phone line is actually their parent. Parents are also reassured by seeing their children’s expressions and being better able to read their moods when their child is far away.

The Journal of the American Bar Association discussed the use of videoconferencing as a possible tool in long-distance parenting in an article back in 2005 and, in 2010, a New York court ordered the use of Skype as part of a decision to allow a parent to move the child out of state.

In the past, using Skype required both parties to have a fairly new computer equipped with a webcam and special software. In 2013, many phones have built-in software, such as Face Time, that makes videoconferencing as simple as dialing a phone number.

Is Skype visitation legal in Alabama?

Because parents usually work out their own visitation schedules at the time of their divorce, rather than having them imposed on them by a court order, searching databases of court opinions does not provide a clear answer to the question as to whether an Alabama court has ever approved (or required) Skype visitation. As in every situation involving child custody and visitation arrangements, the court’s first priority is to find a solution that fits with the parents’ schedules and preferences while ensuring that the best interests of the child are paramount.

If you are considering relocation or if you think that Skype visitation might make sense for you, consult with an experienced Alabama family law attorney.