Family Law Legal Topics

Virtual Visitation

In a mobile society it can be expected that when couples with children separate, one member of the couple may need or choose to relocate beyond commuting distance from the other parent. Technology now adds a new twist to relocation arrangements: virtual visitation. reports on a state judge in New York who ordered a mother to make her two children available for Skype online video conferencing with their father as a condition of her move to Florida. This is the first reported New York case to make such a condition; can California cases be far behind?

In California, the supreme court has offered a list of factors for trial courts to use when deciding whether to modify a custody order in light of a custodial parent’s proposal to relocate (Marriage of LaMusga (2004) 32 C4th 1072, 1101, 12 CR3d 356):

  • The child’s interest in stability and continuity in the custodial arrangement;
  • The distance of the move;
  • The age of the child;
  • The child’s relationship with both parents;
  • The relationship between the parents;
  • The wishes of the child (if mature enough to ask);
  • The reasons for the proposed move; and
  • The extent to which the parents currently are sharing custody.

Keeping in mind that no California decisions have ruled in this area yet, it seems like conditioning relocation on weekly Skyping or similar means of electronic visitation will make it easier for a trial court judge to make the decision to allow a child to be taken far away from the noncustodial parent.For complete coverage of parenting plans and parental relocation issues in California, check out CEB’s California Child Custody Litigation and Practice, chaps 4, 18 (Cal CEB 2006).

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