First, take a look at Ohio Family Law Blog's Virtual Visitation: Part 1 - Utilizing Technology to Supplement Parenting Time:
"Not too long ago, divorced parents had limited communication options to stay in touch with their children. The old rushed and often dry “phone call approach” was better than nothing but had drawbacks. There were long distance phone charges and issues with time zones. New communication options have improved considerably! It is much easier for you to keep in touch with your children after a divorce. Most of these approaches require both parents to have a computer with broadband connections. Here are some options to supplement traditional face to face parenting time:"
All, too true. I had never heard of this:
etendi BRIDGE: Last month etendi.com launched BRIDGE (www.etendi.com) an easy to use, interactive, safe and secure web-based meeting place. It has been specifically developed for non-custodial parents or co-parenting situations, grandparents, military families, or the heavy business traveler. BRIDGE allows family members to stay connected by providing a single place for them to be together online. Features include live video phone calling, shared spaces for photos, videos and documents, personal notes, an interactive white board, and a shared calendar. Parents, kids and other family members can be online at the same time and have a video phone call, play games or work on homework together.
BRIDGE has combined the web-based tools that parents and kids enjoy into a simple subscription based system which eliminates external, undesirable content or SPAM reaching the kids. To learn more about BRIDGE, click here.
These “virtual visitation” tools are not suggested as a replacement to in-person contact but rather, as a supplement. The more options a parent can implement to stay in touch with a child, the stronger the bond between the two should grow. Long-distance parents should think “outside the box” and be creative in integrating virtual visitation tools to stay in close communication with their children. An excellent online resource to learn more about this topic is The Virtual Visitation Portal (www.internetvisitation.org), whose mission includes helping educate and providing free information on how virtual visitation can help both parents who are separated or divorced stay in touch with their children.
"The New York Times today focused on grandparents' webcam visits with their grandchildren—virtual tea parties and virtual hugs. For grandparents who live countries apart or just hundreds of miles apart, there can be real benefits when children and grandparents have access to a computer that is hooked up to a webcam. Newer laptops do have built-in webcams."
Then let us go back to Ohio Family Law Blog for Virtual Visitation: Part 2 - Legal Aspect wherein there is a short discussion of Ohio statutes on visitation. It also mentions that "Florida, Utah, Texas and Wisconsin have all enacted “virtual visitation” statutes." I do not think Indiana families need be inhibited by the lack of a "virtual visitation" statute or rule. I think our Parenting Time Guidelines support virtual visitation but even if not then the Indiana courts have sufficient discretion to provide for virtual visitation.
This article also has a quote from Gilbert v. Gilbert, 730 N.W.2d 833, issued by the Supreme Court of North Dakota in 2007 on the subject of virtual visitation.
About Orders for virtual visitation, the article offers this:
Judges even in contested cases should consider including provisions for video conferencing and other virtual visitation options especially where the parents have computers and the financial means to pay the costs associated with the interactive services. When the parties agree and are cooperative, the language in the order may simply say “The parties shall cooperate in utilizing interactive electronic communication technology including internet email, instant messaging, web cam/video conferencing or other wired/wireless technologies with each parent as a supplement to in-person parenting time.” While this language might suffice in some cases, in most cases, more detailed language would be suggested to avoid misunderstanding and contempt motions. Michael Gough, credited as the father of virtual visitation and founder of the virtual visitation portal (www.internetvisitation.org) has listed 10 items which the drafter of the order should consider including:
- Which forms of “virtual visitation” are being ordered (video conferencing, email, video mail, instant messaging, etc.).
- Equipment required (hardware, software and internet connection)
- Installation and training services.
- Which parent is required to pay for necessary equipment and services.
- Schedule, e.g., days of the week, number of times per week, and times of day for virtual visitation to occur.
- Which parent is responsible to initiate the virtual visitation session.
- Deadline for custodial parent to have equipment ready and video conferencing in full operation.
- If equipment malfunctions or breaks, what time period is allowed for computer repair before court sanctions are triggered.
- Incorporation of the Children’s Bill of Rights, if one exists for your state.
- Remedies and sanctions for noncompliance, including contempt and attorneys fees.
We will need to consider - and ask - our clients about whether they communicate with their children via the Internet. Then we need to ask how they communicate with their children. A tip for the general public - make a point of telling your attorney if you communicate with your children on the Internet!