video chat.jpgVirtual visitation orders may be changing the nature of child custody cases in Georgia.

Video conferencing and other virtual chat technologies allow separated parents to spend time with their children regardless of location or marital status. Skype conferencing software has become increasingly popular, allowing individuals to virtually connect with others through their computer. Apple has even created a video chat option that facilitates face-to-face interactions using one's iPhone or iPod.

A recent child custody case even required a mother to make her two children available for Skype sessions with their father. As a condition of the mother's move to another state, she was ordered to provide reliable Internet access to facilitate these Skype conversations. This is one of the first child custody cases where a parent was ordered to facilitate Skyping.

While Skype provides long-distance parents with an opportunity to virtually connect with their children, some are concerned about potential privacy violations. One individual allegedly used a video chat session with their child as an opportunity to spy on their former spouse.

The child was asked to carry the laptop computer around the home while the ex-spouse searched for new, expensive purchases that may have been made by the other parent. Any unnecessary, expensive purchases could have affected the payment of child support benefits.
Others have criticized virtual visitation as being less than ideal since one's former spouse may need to be present during a Skype session in order to operate the computer for a young child. Supporters of virtual visitations say that while it may not be the ideal situation it does facilitate interaction between the long-distance parent and their child.

Source: Huffington Post, "Virtual Visitation Rights A Looming Legal Question," Eric Villency, 3/7/2011