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Virtual world creates new possibilities in Texas visitation plans

Technology has radically changed the way we communicate. Internet-based communication technologies such as Skype, Facebook and email are even changing the way the law treats child visitation.

Texas and five other states now have laws covering so-called "virtual" or "electronic" visitation rights. Family court judges in Texas can award and regulate virtual meetings as part of child visitation plans when non-custodial parents move away from the areas where their children are living.

Advocates for virtual visitation say that it makes long-distance parenting easier. It helps parents who live far away keep in touch with their children in between the times when they actually have a face-to-face visit. The physically distant parents get to share in the ordinary events in the everyday lives of their children, not only the big special occasions.

Virtual visitation is at least a partial solution to the growing trend of parents living far away from their children. According to a report from the National Center for State Courts, almost 10 million children do not have regular face-to-face contact with one of their parents. One-quarter of the 18 million children whose parents are separated or divorced and the 17 million children whose parents have never married have a parent who lives in a different city.

Critics of virtual visitation say that it gives parents an excuse to move away from their children and some people even use it to spy on their exes. Advocates point to the psychological benefits to the children that virtual visits provide. These are economic times when having a job often means having to live far away from one's family. Virtual visits can bridge that connection gap and still allow a parent to earn money to support his or her child.

Source: The Washington Times, "Virtual visitation: a sensible child custody option," Myra Fleischer, April 15, 2012

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