Monday, March 8, 2010

Parenting Time - Illinois Video Visitation in Action

I mentioned Illinois' new video visitation statute in What About Electronic/Online Parenting Time in Indiana. Now from comes

Divorced parents keep in contact with their children via video phone calls that gives a pretty positive view of what is going on in Illinois.
CHICAGO - Greg Baddick helped his 9-year-old daughter learn the state capitals of the Midwest. Later, when he asked Isabella how her test went, she said she got an A-plus - although she almost forgot the answer for Nebraska.

"Congratulations," Baddick said via an Internet video link, the same way he helped her study. "I'm proud of you."

Because Baddick, a senior manager for a pharmaceutical company, is divorced from Isabella's mother, he helped his daughter study using their laptop computers and the Internet. The virtual visits are a weekly date for the pair, in addition to the in-person weekly visits and twice monthly weekend stays. Isabella lives in Elgin, Ill., Baddick in Chicago.

Chicago family law attorney Jeffery Leving, who said he helped write and lobby for the changes to the law, said he hopes the changes help noncustodial fathers and open up opportunities for children to be in contact with incarcerated fathers.

"The electronic visitation - primarily the cell phone and now the computer - in my opinion, is a psychological lifeline for the child," said Leving, whose firm specializes in fathers' rights.

Bruce Boyer, director of the Loyola Civitas ChildLaw Clinic, said virtual visitation has been helpful in custody cases involving parents who are great distances from each other or in cases where a parent should not have physical proximity to his or her children but would still like to visit and have a relationship.

But, he cautioned, virtual visits should not take the place of in-person interaction whenever safe and possible.

"It's a lesser alternative to face-to-face contact," Boyer said. "If you don't have a better alternative, it can be a very good way of maintaining contact."

Baddick and Isabella's mother divorced in 2003, and the father recalls the emptiness he felt when he first drove away from the family home. His daughter, he said, also remembers.

"It was horrible. It took me a while to get over it," he said. "I struggled for years and years."

But then the father and daughter adjusted, and in recent years, they discovered virtual visitation. In the Baddicks' case, the visits aren't part of an official custody agreement, but rather worked out informally between Isabella's parents.

Isabella likes the video phone.

"It's really cool that you get to talk to your dad and see him," she said.
I have written about alternate means of visiting with the children in Parenting Time - Alternate Means. Between that article and my post on Illinois mentioned above, I think I have made it clear that I think nothing Indiana law prohibits electronic/Internet visitation.

Nothing specifically endorses the idea either. Right now I think a party wanting this sort of visitation needs to specifically request the court include Internet visitation in its parenting time orders.

It is my understanding that with the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines now being under review, it will be proposed for a specific provision similar to Illinois. I have to wonder how many people this will help (I think I still have a lot of clients who do not have Internet access and of those who do I am not sure if they have the equipment to accommodate video exchanges), and so I am asking these questions:
  1. What do you think Indiana should include Internet visitation in the Parenting Guidelines?
  2. Do you have the computer system to visit by video link?
  3. Does the other parent have the computer system to visit by video link?
  4. How many of you will be willing to acquire a computer system and/or Internet connection that will enable video links?

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