A frequent family law question in Chicago

At David M. Siegel and Associates, we are frequently asked about Virtual Visitation. A law that took effect in January of 2010, allows judges to grant non-custodial parents virtual visitation with their children. The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act was amended to include virtual visitation orders. Previously, some parties would agree to this type of visitation, but now it can be ordered and enforced by the court.

In the United States, an estimated 35 million children are separated from one of their parents. Nearly ten million of these children have no in-person visits with one parent, due to distance or incarceration among other reasons. Technology, through virtual visitation (also called e-visitation or e-access) is providing a way for children and parents to stay connected.

Electronic communication can include email, telephone, instant messaging, Facebook, webcams, online video chats, or other wired or wireless technologies. This allows separated or divorced parents additional time with their children beyond regularly scheduled in-person visitation. Virtual visitation allows children and parents to see and hear each other, encouraging better communication and a closer relationship. In example, a webcam can allow the non-custodial parent to help their child with homework.

This form of communication is not intended to replace regular in-person visitation, it is meant to supplement it. Additionally, grandparents, great-grandparents, and siblings can petition the court for access to electronic visitation. The court has the discretion to determine the types, times, and duration of electronic visits. Protections can be put into place against any actions that could be harmful to the child emotionally, mentally, or physically.

Virtual visitation can be an ideal way to strengthen the bonds between children and their parents. The courts and parents must be vigilant to abuse of this system. Critics warn that parents may use this form of visitation to get the court’s approval to relocate. In addition, non-custodial parents could try to use the children and webcams to spy on their ex by asking for a virtual tour of the house. However, the courts will apply the same high standards to virtual visitation that they use with in-person visitation.

This option, when handled appropriately, can make living separate lives less stressful for both parents and children. To discuss this possibility with an experienced Chicago family law attorney, call (847) 520-8100 and schedule a consultation with an attorney at David M. Siegel and associates.