Going through a divorce can be a stressful experience for the adults involved. Children of divorcing couples face their own challenges, especially in the case where a parent decides to relocate.
Thanks to modern technology, virtual visitation may be an option for parents who wish to relocate far away while still allowing for parenting time between the child and the non-custodial parent.
When a custodial parent decides to relocate, it can make visitation more complicated for the non-custodial parent. In a North Dakota case, Gilbert v. Gilbert, one of the determining factors in the court’s decision to allow the mother’s relocation with the children was the fact that she was only moving thirty miles away. The court stated that this distance would not prohibit the father’s active involvement in the children’s lives.
But, what about when the custodial parent wants to relocate to some place far away? In that instance, courts may now be willing to consider a new form of visitation called virtual visitation.
Virtual visitation would allow for the use of modern technology such as e-mail, video conferencing and instant messaging as a way for the non-custodial parent to keep in touch with the child. It is a subject of debate whether this would be in the best interests of the child.
While there are many benefits to virtual visitation – such as more frequent contact than would be possible if restricted to in-person visits – many fear that it will not supplement, but rather replace, in-person visits which carry unique benefits to the child.
Only a few states have enacted laws to allow courts to order virtual visitation, one of which is not North Dakota. Even without laws in place, parents are free to come up with their own parenting plan that will allow for virtual visitation. However, it is likely that this growing phenomenon will gain more traction as more and more people relocate around the world.