Not scheduled to see your kids in person over Thanksgiving or the December holidays? Skype, Facetime, and other forms of internet “e-visitation” may give you a second chance to enjoy holiday parenting time together!
Like many parents who are no longer residing in the same household with their children, you may have a holiday parenting time plan to divide the holidays. These plans typically alternate their important holidays year-by-year. In many cases, Thanksgiving and the Christmas holidays are arranged this way, leaving one parent without the benefit of spending a holiday with their children. But, the internet seems to be changing all this.
As reported in “Child Visitation Hits the Internet” on Lawyers.com, in Illinois, the courts have the power to grant to parents the right to visit with their children via the internet. This type of visitation, dubbed by some as “e-visitation” is emerging as a new trend in this technological age.
Here in New Jersey, when deciding visitation, or, as it is more recently called, parenting time, the courts have embraced given parents time with their children through email and text communication as well as via internet programs such as Skype. However, these types of situations typically occur when the child lives in a different state or country from the non-custodial parent. Could a parent request that a Skype call on Christmas morning be part of the parenting time plan? There is nothing the law that says it can’t…in fact, a bill was introduced in the State Senate in 2012 that, if passed, will formally permit the use of electronic communication in child custody arrangements.
Facetiming may not be the same as enjoying a meal together, but it still has emotional benefits — for both the parent and the child. A study conducted in Massachusetts on the user satisfaction of virtual visitation among divorced families found, in general, that virtual visitation was positively viewed by the parent and the child using this approach. Technology, such as Skype, as compared to traditional telephone calls and text messaging, was found to be a “warm and communicative medium” whereas the latter were deemed “distancing and cool” mediums.
Without question, virtual visitation does not take the place of actual, in-person parenting time between parents and their children. But, in cases where geography prohibits in-person parenting time, or if existing holiday schedules naturally leave the parent without face-to-face time with their kids, this can be a positive arrangement.
Always remember, parents should encourage virtual visits with their child’s other parent as frequently as possible to continue to foster healthy relationships. New Jersey courts favor frequent contact with both parents and withholding contact out of spite or anger serves no one, especially during the holiday season. It may be difficult to spend any holiday without your child, but this alternative may make it a bit easier. Hopefully, you are spending quality in-person time with your children for Christmas or Hanukkah, which are right around the corner!
If you have questions about your holiday schedule or how to implement virtual visitation, please contact us to schedule your initial consultation with one of our qualified and experienced family law attorneys.