Below is information on ways the court system may use technology to try to protect victims of domestic violence from an abuser, including ordering GPS monitoring of offenders, allowing virtual visitation in custody cases, and using co-parenting tools. You can also find information on ways abusers may misuse technology on our Technology Abuse page.
What is virtual visitation?
Virtual visitation is a process where parents can use video conferencing, Skype, FaceTime and other technology to “visit” with their children. Some states have virtual visitation laws that allow a judge the authority to order that visits take place through technology as part of a custody order. This might also be used as an alternative for when the custodial parent has relocated or is requesting relocation, to ensure that the relationship and communication between the child and the non-custodial parent continues between any physical visitation that was ordered. Although a parent who is requesting relocation might be able to request virtual visits, the duration and frequency would have to be agreed upon by the parties or ordered by the judge.
How can virtual visitation help me?
Virtual visitation laws allow parents to use technology to keep in contact with a child. The custodial parent (the parent with whom the child primarily lives) may be able to use virtual visitation to allow contact with the non-custodial parent if in-person visitation is not safe (or practical) for the child or parent. Depending on what type of technology is used for a virtual visit, you may also be able to have a log or record of what happened and what was said during a visit if the technology makes a recording of the visit. You may want to also read about recording laws in our Electronic Surveillance (“Spying”) page to learn more about how this type of recording could be viewed in your state.
Are there any risks or limitations with using virtual visitation?
If you are a victim of domestic violence, you may be able to use video conferencing (or other technology and social media sites) to allow the child to have some contact with the other parent when you wish to limit in-person visits. However, in many states allow virtual visitation is used as an addition to in-person visitation, and judges may hesitate to order it as a complete replacement to visits.
Additionally, virtual visitation doesn’t remove the possibility that the abuser may abuse/harass you or your child over the technology during the visit. An abuser trying to gain access to your computer to track you or steal your information could also try to share links with you to get you to download spyware or malware onto your computer. Read more about monitoring in our GPS Monitoring page and Computer Crimes page. You may also consider talking to an advocate to safety plan around using technology with an abusive co-parent.
Is virtual visitation an option in my state?
You can check your state’s Statutes page to find out if your state has a virtual visitation law or consulting with a lawyer in your state. You may also be able to request virtual visitation even if your state does not have a law addressing it. You may consider asking a lawyer if it is possible to request virtual visitation in custody cases in your state.