Virtual visitation is an acceptable form of child visitation in North Carolina. It involves interactions between a parent and their kids through electronic devices, such as cell phones, computers, and tablets. A major form of virtual visitation involving face-to-face communication is using Facetime, Zoom, Skype, or another type of video calling.
Divorce can be challenging when it comes to deciding on visitation schedules. Some divorced couples don’t live in the same state or even the same country. One parent might have to travel for work and can’t be with their child physically. Maintaining contact with your children is your priority, but virtual visitation allows you the same access if you can’t be there. You can still see and talk to them when they’re with your ex.
Virtual Visitation in North Carolina
In North Carolina, the parent seeking virtual visitation of a minor child can petition the court. The court might consider these factors to determine whether it should grant virtual visitation:
- Whether electronic communication is in the child’s best interests
- Whether the child has access to Facetime or another means of video calling that the parents can afford
- Additional factors the court believes are necessary to determine whether to grant an order for virtual visitation
If the court decides to grant the order, they can set specific guidelines regarding electronic communication. Those guidelines could include:
- Costs paid by each parent for providing communication through Facetime
- Hours the parent and child can communicate
- The information each parent needs to provide the electronic communication
Facetime isn’t meant to substitute or replace visitation with your child. Virtual visitation is a supplement to seeing your child in person. You should be allowed to do both if the court grants the order.
Drafting a Virtual Visitation Agreement
When you draft the agreement with your ex for virtual visitation, you should ensure you address all details. The agreement should include the means of communicating with your child while they’re with your ex and how often you can contact them virtually.
You should also determine in the agreement whether you or your ex should be financially responsible for the equipment necessary to talk to your child virtually. If you have an iPhone but your child doesn’t and you want to use FaceTime for your virtual visitation, you need to purchase an iPhone for them. The agreement should state whether you’re going to pay for the new phone or you agree to split the expense with your ex.
You can also establish specific ground rules regarding things you may or may not be comfortable with, such as whether your ex can be in the same room while you’re talking virtually with your child. Discuss anything you might have an issue with before signing the agreement. If you file the document and change your mind about something later, you will have to go to court to make changes.
Enforcing Virtual Visitation with a Child
Sometimes, mistakes happen. Your ex might forget about your scheduled virtual visitation and take your child out somewhere. Or they could run late driving your child home, causing you to miss part of the time you were supposed to be with your kid virtually. Although these scenarios are upsetting, there’s no need to bring your ex to court if they only happen once in a while.
However, if you consistently miss precious time talking to your child because of your ex, you can and should take immediate action. First, you should document each instance when your ex’s actions prevent you from communicating with your son or daughter. Write down the date, time, and whether your ex contacted you to tell you they were running late or forgot about the schedule. You need to establish a pattern to show the court.
Try to talk to your ex about the missed virtual visitation. If you can work things out on your own, you won’t need to involve a judge. Fighting about child visitation matters in court can become contentious. Your ex could face serious consequences, which could negatively impact your child. However, you have as much of a right to see your son or daughter as they do and should pursue legal action if necessary.
If your ex refuses to allow you the visitation the court ordered, you can file a motion in court. You should hire a lawyer to assist you because it can be a complicated and overwhelming process. Your lawyer can draft and file the motion on your behalf to ask the court to intervene with the visitation problem.
Do not hesitate to contact the Raleigh family law attorneys of Marshall & Taylor PLLC if you need legal representation while pursuing virtual visitation or enforcing a court order. We will protect your rights and fight for the child visitation you deserve.
Call us at (919) 833-1040 for a confidential consultation and to learn more about what we can do for you.