Child Access in the Digital Age

In Child Custody, Parenting by Elizabeth Stephenson

The world has gotten a lot smaller in the digital age. Long gone are the days of writing letters to one another, land line phones without answering machines, or obsessing over the costs of long distance calls to people outside of your area code.

Instead, we can use our cell phones to call anywhere in the entire country without any regard for long distance fees. We can instantly write to each other from almost anywhere in the world by emails, instant messenger, texting, or WhatApp. We can upload pictures, status updates, videos, and interests via social media apps like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. And significantly, with video conferencing apps like Skype and Facetime, we can see, hear, and interact with our friends and loved ones in real time.

While we don’t have our jetpacks yet, the future is here when it comes to digital communication, which has had a positive impact when it comes to parental contact with children. In fact, the North Carolina legislature has seen fit to make electronic communication a part of child custody proceedings. In other words, courts are authorized to enter specific orders allowing parental visitation rights via electronic communication. Not only does this allow a parent a more normalized relationship and more personal access to the child, but it also helps when parents live a long distance away from one another.

Electronic communication refers to contact by telephone, email, instant messaging, or video conferencing. There are three factors that a court is required to consider when entering electronic communication orders:

  1. Whether electronic communication is in the child’s best interest;
  2. Whether the necessary electronic equipment is “available, accessible, and affordable to the parents of the minor child”; and
  3. Any other factor the court deems appropriate.

The court is authorized to create a specific schedule and guidelines for these parent-child communications. This includes the frequency, duration, and hours of the week that this communication is permitted, whether the communication must be supervised and by whom, how the costs of the equipment and monthly fees will be allocated, and creating an appropriate avenue for parents to facilitate this communications amongst themselves.

Significantly, the statute notes that electronic communication is designed to supplement and not to replace physical custody or visitation rights. In addition, a court may not consider electronic communication when awarding child support or authorizing a custodial parent to relocate a long distance away.

New Direction Family Law

Child custody and visitation issues require a cool head, methodical approach, and a focus on the children’s best interest. At New Direction Family Law, we take pride in providing clear, convincing legal advocacy for our clients. We know the law and appreciate how important the outcome is to you and your children. If you need advice or representation, contact us. We serve Wake, Johnston, d Durham and surrounding counties. Contact New Direction Family Law at (919) 719-3470 to schedule a consultation or reach us online at our website.