With the advancements in technology, one of the buzz words we have begun hearing about "virtual visitation." In fact, recently, Julie Ganz, an associate in our Chester County, Pennsylvania office did a piece on our Pennsylvania Family Law Blog on "virtual visitation" and how it is being approved for use in a number of states. Clearly, with cameras on computers, video chatting, Skype, Face Time on Apple products and the like, the quality of parenting time that a non-custodial parent can have with their children is improved. Put another way, it seems that being able to actually see children, while not in person, and to have them see their parent, is still better then a phone call, email or text.
At least one court in New Jersey has followed the trend. Specifically, in Margueron v. Baik an unreported Appellate Division opinion decided on March 21. 2011, a trial court’s Order requiring the mother to cooperate with establishing a SKYPE account to enable the father to see and communicate with his child by way of the internet. was upheld. The facts in the opinion are scant but what is known is that the father was returning to France. The order also provided that father have extended parenting time with the child in August each year, one additional week each year, and extended time at Christmas in alternate years. The Appellate Division held that "The judge crafted a schedule that allows communication between father and child that accounts for the geographical distance between them."
While in this case, the issue was one of distance, the question remains as to whether distance should be a prerequisite to using the new technology, or whether it should be used in every case, no matter the distance. A complaint, if not painfully sad lament from many non-custodial parents is that they used to get to see their children every day but now they can go days without "seeing" them. While "virtual visitation" will unlikely ever be a replacement for the real thing, if available, why not use it? We shall see what the court’s do with this going forward.