In Illinois, and a handful of other states, virtual visitation is actually written into the law. In the past, non-custodial parents were limited to phone calls as the way to communicate between visits. Now, video chats are becoming a popular alternative. In Illinois, judges have the authority to include virtual visitation as part of their custody orders.
I think it's a great tool for increasing communication between a child and the parent they don't live with. For those who live in different states, or are in the military, or don't have the financial means to travel for frequent visits, it can be a good way to keep in touch between visits. It's also a way to communicate with a child in a way they're very comfortable with. Texting, IMing, web chats - it's what they're used to.
If you are custodial parent, you might be required to set up the web chat for your child and ex. I'm sure some parents won't be thrilled by that, but them's the breaks. You can't interfere with visitation.
A possible downside: relying on virtual visitation and forgoing actual visits. It certainly shouldn't replace face-to-face contact. It shouldn't be used by parents as a way to get out of driving to visit their child. Another downside would be ordering virtual visitation too lightly. If an actual visit wouldn't be in the child's best interest, a virtual visit probably wouldn't be either. A web chat with a verbally abusive parent could be just as harmful as a in-person visit, for example. Of course, these issues can and are addressed in court.
Visitation isn't an ideal situation, and any solution is going to have pros and cons. Overall, adding web chats into the mix seems like a natural step forward, if used wisely. It will strengthen relationships, which is the whole point.
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