Centuori & Associates, PC

As technology continues to revolutionize communication, more divorce cases across the country are taking into account "virtual visitation," or the use of Internet technology such as instant messaging and video chat, to facilitate contact between children and noncustodial parents beyond the scope of regular physical visitation. Arizona does not have a formal virtual visitation law, but Arizona courts are examining the issue of virtual visitation as it affects parenting time and how it may change the child custody landscape.

In most cases, virtual visitation is considered an adjunct to physical visitation time, rather than a replacement for it. If a court would not consider regular physical visitation for any reason, it is far less likely that virtual visitation would be granted. Defenders of virtual visitation point to noncustodial parents and children getting extended contact, such as the ability to virtually attend school functions and read bedtime stories outside of regular parenting time.

Opponents of virtual visitation express concern that parents may attempt to use virtual visitation as a means to persuade the court to approve long-distance moves that would otherwise be outside the scope of the original divorce decree. They also note that custodial parents may attempt to bar physical contact based on the exercise of virtual visitation rights, creating another point of conflict in contentious divorce situations.

Co-parents should focus on their children's best interests when discussing important decisions like the use of virtual visitation. An attorney may recommend this type of visitation to the court if regular physical visitation is a viable option and the best interests of the children would be served in this manner. Virtual visitation may also be considered in situations where parents live far away from each other, provided it is not treated as a substitute for physical parental interaction.

Source: FindLaw, "Virtual Visitation," Accessed Feb. 3, 2015

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