Recently, while on a long flight to Hawaii, I sat opposite the galley and had the chance to have a long conversation with one of the flight attendants about how he stays in touch with his young children Aiden and Evan, morning and night when he's away from home 10 days a month. I was impressed with how easy it sounds. Virtual visitation has been in the news lately, and with more and more homes having high-speed Internet access, the concept is far more viable.
The first time I contemplated the concept of virtual parenting time was in 1994. At that time, I had a client who lived in the San Francisco Bay area whose child lived with the custodial parent in Northern Michigan. The concept was very, very new at that time. I'd like to be able to report that this idea worked. Certainly, we had a court system willing to consider it. What we did not have was a cooperative custodial parent. The potential for setting up and keeping a computer and camera in working order seemed daunting, if not impossible. My client decided not to fight because any and all of his parenting time occurred with stiff opposition from the mother, cost a lot of money and anguish for my client, and also caused the child anxiety that was transferred as a result of the parents' conflict.
In today's extraordinarily mobile society, however, I believe that virtual visitation is not only necessary in order to preserve a good parent-child relationship, but is a way for noncustodial parents to remain intimately connected to their children.
This is not to say that this isn't a two-edged sword. A parent who wants to relocate may offer virtual visitation as a means of replacing the regular parenting time of the noncustodial parent. This represents a threat to a parent faced with a relocation motion. On the other hand, a parent who has lost a relocation motion or who has had, for economic reasons, to relocate himself or herself far from the children can use virtual visitation to remain in close touch with his or her children.
Upon arriving home, I Googled "virtual visitation" and found some recent news articles describing parents' experiences. I also asked Guy to share his experiences and to show us some examples of how virtual visitation might work.
The Michigan Legislature is considering a bill for virtual visitation: See HB4174
To visit Jeanne Hannah's website for more information, click here.
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