Clinician's Digest


January/February 2011


Virtual Visitation for Parents and Children

By Garry Cooper

When his ex-wife got permission from the court to move out of state with their 4-year-old daughter, computer expert Michael Gough feared that he'd lose his close connection with his child. Aware of the difficulties of maintaining a relationship with a youngster exclusively through phone calls, Gough requested that the judge order regular virtual visitation (VV), so he could use a webcam and the Internet to stay in touch visually as well as verbally. The judge refused initially, saying, "If there isn't case law, state law, or a statute, don't ask for it because I won't order it." Undeterred, Gough brought his laptop to court and demonstrated to the judge how powerful and immediate virtual visitation could be. Impressed with what he saw, the judge granted the order. Since then, at least five states have passed statutes approving VV for noncustodial parents, with several more considering doing the same.

VV is undeniably a potential tool for salvaging and expanding a parent-child relationship that an angry, divorced parent might wish to disrupt. With young children, in particular, who are less verbal and rely more on visual stimuli for processing new experiences, there's a world of difference between VV and the telephone.

Through VV, Gough read bedtime stories to his daughter and sang hand-clapping songs with her. For her part, she took him on a tour of her new home, and, as she grew…

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