Virtual Visitation and Out of State Removal of Children
“Virtual visitation” is a term that is gaining relevance in Illinois divorces. It refers to using online video programs like Skype to create a visual and audio connection by which physically distant parents can connect online with their children.
A recent New York divorce case granted a mother’s request for permission to move with her children to Florida, despite the fact that the children’s father would continue to live in New York. As a condition of the removal order, the mother had to agree to allow the children to visit with their father via Skype, an Internet service that allows for live videoconferencing. The New York judge noted that economic conditions justified the move, as the parents’ house was underwater, employment prospects were dim, and the mother had supportive family in Florida.
Comment: I have always favored “virtual visitation,” and have written “Skype type” e-parenting language into parenting agreements, but only to allow for each parent to have enhanced and increased contact with their children when the children are not residential with them. I like the fact that Skype permits an enhanced experience for Dads and kids; far better than the typical evening phone call that most agreements provide for. I use these “Skype” clauses even when the children and parents live in the same city. However, I have never advocated that the use of Skype be a factor in permitting the removal of children to another state. Put simply, removal is a harsh and destructive outcome for many parents, usually Fathers, who must suffer the loss of local contact with their children after divorce. Fortunately, unlike some other states, Illinois law disfavors removal of children, but I can tell you that judges here do grant removal petitions.
If you are facing the possibility that your spouse may try to remove the children from Illinois out of state, on the pretext that there is family or friends in some other state, aggressively defending removal is critical. In my view, while “Skype” has been a boon to facilitating enhanced contact between nonresidential parents and children within Illinois, it should never be considered a substitute or factor in a removal case. Call my office for a consultation if you have concerns that your spouse may seek court permission to leave the state with the children during or after the divorce.