In the age of technology, virtual parenting time has become a more frequent aspect of child custody and visitation arrangements. As separated and divorced parents begin to navigate this new normal, it is essential to understand what virtual parenting time is, when it’s used, and how best to implement it into a modern family schedule.

However, given the ever-changing landscape of available technologies, it’s also important to understand that the Family Court isn’t known for being on the cutting edge of any “new” or “modern” solution to age-old problems divided families face. Therefore, many families who wish to implement these unique and creative ways of parenting their children may find they need to be far more cooperative and agreeable in working together for these purposes since the Court may not be willing to issue an Order with these types of provisions for the parties who aren’t able to agree on them.

Keep reading to learn more about when virtual parenting might be a good option to consider in your situation.


What is Virtual Parenting Time?

Virtual parenting time allows a parent to remain engaged with their children, even from a great distance, during times when regular parenting time (i.e., in-person contact) may not be possible due to work, military service, unavoidable travel, or other circumstances requiring a parent to be separated from the child for extended periods of time. This type of custody arrangement allows parents to engage with their children via video calls (e.g., FaceTime), video conferencing (e.g., Zoom), or regular telephone calls during designated times.

Virtual contact is also beneficial for long-distance families who may live far away from each other but still want to remain connected with their children. While it may seem this isn’t much different than a typical call made to the other parent during a typical joint custody arrangement, these calls are arranged in advance and are typically meant to last more than just a few minutes, to allow for the parent to be as fully engaged as possible despite the miles that may separate the parent and child.


How Does It Work?

 In order for virtual parenting time to be the most effective, it should be established as part of an court order or agreement between both parties. It’s also critical that it be carried out as consistently as possible on both sides.

It is important to remember that virtual parenting time is not typically meant to replace physical visitation, but rather supplement it when necessary circumstances arise. For example, if one parent must be away for several weeks while helping a sick family member, and therefore misses his or her regular parenting time periods during that time, virtual parenting isn’t given instead of the physical parenting time they are missing. Instead, it would be done to ensure that the child doesn’t feel disconnected or lose consistent contact while the parent is away. It’s anticipated that the temporarily absent parent would work with the custodial parent upon their return to schedule periods of “make-up” in-person parenting time to reconnect with the child once their travel is complete and schedules return to a more “normal” routine.

When establishing a virtual parenting plan, there are several factors to consider, such as frequency and duration of visits, parental and child access to the necessary technology, and any additional provisions needed in order to ensure that the virtual visits are successful and beneficial for all involved. If you are already working with a family law attorney or have a Guardian ad Litem appointed for your custody case, this is something either of them should be able to certainly assist with to ensure your provisions are both practical and enforceable.

All in all, virtual parenting time can be a great (and economical) way to stay connected with your children while also maintaining positive relationships when physical, in-person contact simply isn’t possible. If you find yourself in a situation where this type of arrangement might be beneficial, regardless of the length of time, it is important to speak with an experienced family court attorney who can advise you on the best way to proceed to ensure your rights, and your child’s best interests, are always protected.


The Benefits of Virtual Parenting Time

Virtual parenting time provides many benefits for both parents and children alike because it allows them to stay connected even when they cannot physically see each other. This type of communication also helps maintain relationships between parents and children who live apart from one another due to work or school commitments, military deployments, illness, or other circumstances that prevent regular face-to-face contact from taking place on a weekly (or consistent) basis.

Since much of this communication takes place over video chat platforms like Skype or FaceTime, there is an added benefit of the parent and child being able to observe each other’s facial expressions and body language.  This can increase the effectiveness and quality of these interactions as well as help reinforce the bond between parent and child even if they cannot physically be together for a period of time.

Additionally, virtual parenting time can also provide a great deal of relief and comfort to parents who live far away from their children. When this type of plan is implemented, it allows the absent parent to still remain actively involved in day-to-day activities, conversations, decisions, etc. that they might otherwise miss out on due to the physical distance separating them from their child. For example, if a teenager is having trouble finding the perfect prom dress, a virtual visit that allows the child to try on and show the options visually to the absent parent to get their opinion is vastly different than texting or emailing photos of the options and not allowing either person to see the other person’s facial first impressions when an option is first revealed.

Vitual parenting time also provides an opportunity for both parents to engage directly with their child without having to rely upon the custodial parent, websites, email newsletters, etc. for updates about what is going on in their child’s daily lives. Finally, virtual parenting time can be a much less expensive than traveling between states or countries to attempt to visit a child as consistently as when the distance wasn’t an issue. This means that neither parent is unduly burdened financially by what is (hopefully) a temporary situation, allowing those funds to be better spent or invested for the child’s future.


Final Thoughts

No matter what child custody or parenting arrangement you and the other parent are trying to create, it is critical to remember that no two family situations are identical, and that traditional or “standard” parenting time schedules may not be the best option for all families all the time. If your situation calls for (or can be reasonably anticipated it might call for) a more creative solution like virtual parenting time, it will always be best to have an agreement that addresses any potential legal issues in great detail so both parties feel secure that their rights as parents are being properly addressed and protected, but more importantly that their child’s best interests are always held at the forefront in all final decisions.

Navigating child custody arrangements and shared parenting in this new digital age often seems daunting, but by having an experienced attorney on your side, especially one who regularly works cases involving unique child custody situations, you will feel more confident that your family is establishing practical, effective, and enforceable agreements that work best for everyone involved. Your attorney’s experience and guidance in keeping parents connected with their kids, while also addressing any potential challenges associated with these modern parenting plan solutions, will pay dividends in the long run – both financially and emotionally.

If you are considering creating or changing a parenting time agreement, don’t make any decisions about how to proceed before talking with a trusted family law attorney. Your agreement must be in line with your state’s divorce laws in order to be enforceable by the Family Court. Without discussing your particular situation with an experienced attorney, your agreement may not be what you want or what is beneficial to your or your child’s future. If you’re in South Carolina, it’s important to contact an experienced family court attorney like J. Benjamin Stevens today to discuss your specific situation.  Even if you aren’t in South Carolina, Mr. Stevens is happy to offer referrals to a well-qualified attorney located in your state.

Ben Stevens has provided exceptional legal counsel and support to families throughout South Carolina for over twenty-five years, handling all matters of family law, such as child custody, visitation, separation, divorce, and other complex issues. He is a Fellow in the prestigious American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and the International Academy of Family Lawyers, and he is a Board-Certified Family Trial Advocate by the National Board of Trial Advocacy.  Our firm is well-equipped to handle all family law matters, no matter your circumstances. Contact our office at (864) 598-9172 or to schedule an initial consultation.


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