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Should Face Time or Skype be written into your parenting plan?

When you decided to divorce, you weren't too thrilled when your soon-to-be former spouse told you about plans involving moving your children to a new location outside California or one that is still in this state but a great distance from where you'll be living. As a good father, you understand the importance of maintaining an active, close relationship with your kids as you all adapt to your new lifestyles and move forward beyond divorce.

Many parents in similar situations rely on video technology to supplement their visitation arrangements, especially those who can't travel across many miles as often as they'd like to spend in-person time with their children. Nowadays, you can work virtual visitation instructions right into your court-approved parenting plan. The key is to make sure you protect your rights and the best interests of your kids as you make the best of your situation even if it's not what you'd prefer.

Get the facts and know your rights

If you get along fairly well with your former spouse, enough to amicably communicate and cooperate for the sake of your kids, both sides will agree to keep lines of communication open at all times so children can get in touch with you as their non-custodial parent. The following information may apply to your situation and help you avoid legal problems:

  • Virtual visitation includes any and all means of electronic or digital correspondence, such as instant messaging, texting, email or video chats.
  • At least six states currently have laws that allow their courts to order virtual visitation as part of child custody decrees.
  • Even though California does not yet have specific laws regarding virtual visitation orders, it doesn't necessarily mean you can't have instructions or details regarding this type of communication written in your parenting agreement.
  • The critical factor regarding virtual visitation is that it's meant to supplement, not replace, in-person visits.
  • You can still talk to your children by phone whenever you like, but being able to access video equipment to see each others' faces while you chat often makes between-visits chats a lot more fun.
  • Virtual visitation also allows you to feel closer to your children when you want to be with them for a special event or to celebrant their achievements but time, distance, money or other issues are keeping you apart. Your kids can show you their art entries at a school fair in real time or take time out from their day to show you special moments, such as a recently lost tooth or a newly learned skill.

The California court always has your children's best interests in mind when ruling on child custody, visitation and financial support matters. Certain legal issues may arise regarding virtual visitation, however, such as who should be responsible for purchasing necessary equipment or whether a custodial parent can take virtual time away as a disciplinary measure at home.

Support is available

Because state laws vary and trying to resolve visitation problems on your own can be quite stressful, you may want to ask a family law advocate to act on your behalf. Other California parents have obtained swift resolutions to such problems by turning to experienced family law attorneys.

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