Using Technology to Supplement Visitation
As our culture becomes more reliant on technology to communicate and access to cell phones, laptops, and apps that facilitate communication become easier to use, non-custodial parents are able to employ these methods as a supplement to their traditional in-person visitation with their child(ren). Using programs such as Skype or Facetime (or WhatsApp or WeChat, the list goes on and on) allows non-custodial parents another avenue to connect with their children. This can be particularly useful if the parents live in different states or far enough away from each other that it’s not feasible for the non-custodial parent to have a regular visitation schedule.
Apart from the benefit of just additional time that a parent can spend with their kid, using Skype or Facetime is generally easier to facilitate between the parents, as there is no “exchange” of the child, ie picking up or dropping off the child at a scheduled time and location, which is necessary for traditional visitations. In fact, depending on the age of the child, the parent with the child at a given time may not even need to do anything and the child and the other parent can interact on their own. Visitation through these means tend not to cause as many problems as might occur with regular visitation.
Courts, too, are on board with these recent trends and encourage additional “electronic communication” between parents and their children. Section 607 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act on visitation even specifically defines “electronic communication” to mean “time that a parent spends with his or her child during which the child is not in the parent’s actual physical custody, but which is facilitated by the use of communication tools such as the telephone, electronic mail, instant messaging, video conferring or other wired or wireless technologies via the Internet, or another medium of communication.
However, it is important to note that forms of electronic visitation should not serve as a replacement for regular, in-person visitation. Further, in cases where a parent may try to argue that the other parent will still have visitation via technology to support his or her case for taking the child to another state, Section 609 specifically articulates that the court may not use the availability of electronic communication as a factor in support of a removal of a child by the custodial parent from Illinois.