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When a Parent Needs to Relocate, Virtual Visitation Can Be an Option

August 31, 2010

According to Michigan family law attorney Paul J. Tafelski, the increasing use of online video conferencing technology could add a new twist to a custodial parent’s request for relocating after a divorce.

This issue came into national notice earlier this month when a New York court ordered a woman who was moving to Florida, to use the Skype video conference program so that her children could have long-distance visitation with their father.

In the case, Baker v. Baker (New York Law Journal, No. 29610-2007), the mother claimed that she had to move because her home was in foreclosure. The court therefore ordered that three Skype communications should be conducted per week between the father and his two children.

In a release, Tafelski said, “Virtual visitation, such as Skype video conferences, may not be the answer in every situation, but in cases where the custodial parent’s move appears to be justified, it can be a fair solution for the other parent. If the court is going to permit the relocation, the other parent should request virtual visitation as a way to continue a meaningful relationship with the child.”

Michigan follows the “100-mile rule,” which prevents a custodial parent from moving a child’s residence by more than 100 miles without receiving the non-custodial parent’s consent or a court’s permission.

In the release, Tafelski said, “Virtual visitation – whether it’s by Skype, iChat, e-mail, chat rooms, texting or any other forms that are being commonly used today – could play into the third factor.” He further mentioned, “If the court determines that the relocation is needed to improve the quality of life for the child and custodial parent, it could order virtual visitation as a way to preserve and foster the non-custodial parent’s relationship with the children.”

However, Tafelski says that virtual visitation should be used as a supplement and not as a substitute, for actual visitation, or parenting time. H believes that virtual visitation clauses can also be included in divorce settlements.

Paul J. Tafelski’s Oakland County firm is a representative of family law clients in a wide range of areas, which also includes child custody.

Calvin Azuri is a contributing editor for unified communications. To read more of Calvin’s articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Juliana Kenny

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