When you’ve made the difficult decision to divorce your spouse, one of the most important issues to resolve is custody of the children and parenting/visitation time. Children are typically central in divorces and consideration for them can add to already heightened emotions and stress. You and your spouse may have been able to agree on child custody and visitation, you may be working to come to an agreement on child custody and visitation, or the court may have had to step in and make a decision as to those two issues.
No matter how child custody and visitation are resolved in your divorce, the law on issues regarding visitation when a child is in the physical custody of one parent doesn’t address technology’s latest gadgets. The technological advances of the internet, cell phones, and technology devices have changed the way we’re able to communicate with one another. Whereas, in the past, we’ve had to communicate with our children in person or verbally on the telephone, now we can see them virtually through apps like Zoom and FaceTime.
Ideally, when you and your spouse have come to an agreement and devised a parenting plan or when the court has issued their order regarding custody and visitation, there would be stipulations regarding the use of technology for visitation with the children. If there aren’t clear-cut details in your parenting plan about using FaceTime, for example, to communicate with and see your child, below is some information that may be helpful for you to know while you work to clarify or resolve the issue.
Determining Rules for Visitation with Your Child
After filing for divorce, if you and your spouse have children, you’ll need to determine who will have custody of the children and how both of your parental rights will be considered when it comes to visitation with the child. Whether the divorce is contested or not, the two of you may have been or may be able to decide these issues together. If you’re able to agree on custody and visitation, you would include details related to custody and visitation in a parenting plan which would be approved by the court.
If you and your spouse aren’t able to resolve the issues outside of court then, unfortunately, the court would be responsible for making these crucial decisions about which parent will have custody of the children and details about visitation time. Decisions about visitation will go hand in hand with custody decisions. Whichever parent has permanent physical custody of the children or shared physical custody, the other parent would be granted a certain amount of visitation or parenting time (barring any special circumstances where visitation with a parent would present a danger to the child).
Does Time with Your Child on FaceTime Count?
When visitation is determined, there should be explicit guidelines included in the visitation document about when visitation is allowed, for how long a parent can have visitation with the child, and what constitutes visitation. There may be stipulations disallowing visitation through certain methods or allowing visitation time outside the scheduled parenting time on holidays and birthdays, for example. Any parenting plan or court order should specifically detail what modes of visitation are allowed.
Generally, video communication apps like FaceTime can be considered a form of visitation. This is especially true when the parent and child live a distance away from each other, and seeing each other physically as frequently as desired or allowed is more difficult. If an issue arises between parents regarding the use of technology for visitation, that may be something to get addressed and sorted out legally.
However, electronic visitation should not altogether take the place of face-to-face, in-person visitation.
What Else Counts as Visitation?
Along with FaceTime, other video apps like Zoom or Skype can be considered visitation. Other electronic modes of communication like simply talking on the phone, texting on a cell phone, or emailing can be considered visitation. Even if you live near your children to have physical visitation as scheduled, it’s generally much more beneficial to a child’s wellbeing to have equal access to both parents as needed. Electronic communication makes it easier to communicate with your child quickly, and the courts typically understand this.
Contact the Experienced Child Custody Lawyers of Higdon, Hardy & Zuflacht, L.L.P. for Help with Your Case
If there are outstanding issues regarding visitation with your child through electronic or technological means, you may need to seek a legal solution to the problem or modify an existing parenting plan or court visitation order.
The San Antonio family law attorneys of Higdon, Hardy & Zuflacht, L.L.P. can help ensure that your parenting rights are protected. The best outcome is that which maintains the best interests of your child. Call us today at (210) 349-9933 or contact us online for a consultation.