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'Virtual visitation' may augment a child custody order

Technology has grown at an outstanding rate over the past decade or so. These days, people in Arizona send emails, chat on Skype, post on Facebook and have their cellphones on them wherever they go so they can make a phone call or send a text whenever they need to. These advances in technology affect nearly every aspect of our lives, including child custody and visitation.

These days, a court can order "virtual visitation," in which a parent uses technology as a means of visiting the child. For example, a parent can email the child, text the child or use video conferencing to keep in touch with the child. Virtual visitation can especially help a non-custodial parent should the custodial parent move away with the child, affecting an existing visitation schedule.

However, virtual visitation is supposed to augment, not replace, face-to-face visitation time. In general, when a court orders virtual visitation, it means the custodial parent must allow the child to contact the non-custodial parent through virtual means and make these means available. However, any virtual visitation order will only be made if it is in the best interests of the child.

Virtual visitation can strengthen the bond between the parent and the child. For example, the parent can be more involved in the child's day-to-day life, such as helping the child with homework. It also allows the parent to see the child's facial expressions which can help them communicate better. Moreover, it allows the child to share his or her accomplishments, such as a lost tooth, with the non-custodial parents.

In the end, it is important to remember that while virtual visitation can provide many benefits to a child, it should not be seen as a replacement for in-person visitation time between a non-custodial parent and the child. Nevertheless, it can be made an important part of an existing child custody and visitation order, benefiting both the parent and the child.

Source: FindLaw, "Virtual Visitation," accessed on June 25, 2017

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