Skype, Apple Facetime and other video-conferencing technologies are being used more and more between parents and their children who are living primarily or temporarily at long distances. North Carolina law allows the district court judge to order parental visitation via electronic communication in G.S. § 50-13.2(e).
Other states such as New Jersey are adopting laws allowing virtual visitation as well.
“Electronic communication” is defined in the statute as contact, other than face-to-face contact, facilitated by electronic means, such as by telephone, electronic mail, instant messaging, video teleconferencing, wired or wireless technologies by Internet, or other medium of communication.
To grant visitation by electronic communication the North Carolina district court judge must consider:
- Whether electronic communication is in the best interest of the minor child.
- Whether equipment to communicate by electronic means is available, accessible, and affordable to the parents of the minor child.
- Whether there is any other factor the court deems appropriate in determining whether to grant visitation by electronic communication.
The statute does not allow electronic communication as a replacement or substitution for custody or visitation. This an important point, especially for parents who live long distances form their children. Also, this makes it clear that electronic communications are merely a supplement to face-to-face and in person visitation.
Electronic communication between the child and the parent may be subject to supervision as ordered by the court. This no different from any other power the district court judge has to set the parameters of custodial time.
Finally, anticipating that the issue would come up in a child support calculation or modification, the general assembly has made it clear that the amount of time electronic communication is used shall not be a factor in calculating child support. Likewise, the amount of electronic communication may not be used to justify or support relocation by the custodial parent out of the immediate area or the State.
Wake County family law attorney Scott Allen handles custody and child support cases every day and has over seventeen years of experience. If you have questions or need assistance call him at (919) 863-4183 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.