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Child Custody: Video Communication as Part of a Parenting Plan

By:  Curtis Wiberg

The telephone is an amazing way to keep in touch with children.  Skype, Facetime, Facebook video messaging, and other social media applications have made remote communication even more amazing.  In a divorce situation with kids involved, video communication has taken a lot of the sting of being separated from children for a lengthy period of time away.

At the beginning of my career, I dictated my letters and court pleadings onto cassette tapes, to secretaries who could type 100+ words per minute (and who were the only employees that had computers on their desk), and the fax machine (with the shiny white roll-up paper) was the revolutionary device that was changing the world.  To think that 20 plus years later, my clients could talk in real time to their children from anywhere in the world would have been unfathomable. But in those 20 years, we’ve gone from the unfathomable to the common, where video parenting time is almost invariably in every divorce parenting plan. And, it is largely beneficial for all involved.

While video chats don’t replace a hug and a kiss, the added dimension of seeing your loved ones adds some flexibility to parents formulating a parenting plan as part of their divorce or child custody case.  This is especially helpful in cases where a parent travels a lot for their job or has to relocate out of state.  It is also helpful in cases where a stay at home parent is transitioning to a post-divorce world where that parent doesn’t see the children 24/7.  That’s not to say there are not complications in working in a video messaging provision in a parenting time agreement.  For instance, some kids are too young to have their own smart phones and the related access to the dark side of the internet.  That leads to having to rely on the ex-spouse’s technology to video chat, and considering that divorcing spouses aren’t always cooperative, problems arise.  Problems inherent with telephone parenting time are just as relevant in a video chat scenario too, where a scheduled time for communication can interfere with a nightly routine, extracurricular activity, sleepover, or a spontaneous activity with the parent who has the parenting time.  Video chats often last longer than phone calls too, which adds to these same disruption of a routine concerns.  Disputes about privacy, where one party does not want the other party hovering or eavesdropping are more common in video chatting, as the audio is usually over a speaker phone.

Language in a parenting time plan that allows for video communication “at reasonable times and for reasonable duration” usually is sufficient to allay many of these concerns and makes parents accusing each other of court order violations less common than parenting plans that set communications at once per day at a specific time.

As with parenting plans in general, parenting plan provisions related to video communication need divorcing parents to bury the hurt feelings and anger associated with divorce to make video communication successful for the children. It is helpful for the parent who is exercising parenting time to communicate ahead of time of a variation in the usual routine that might interfere with a video chat, and to suggest to the other parent a good time to initiate a chat. Likewise, a parent who might not be able to initiate a video chat as usual needs to communicate that ahead of time so that the children are not hurt by unrealized expectations and the other parent is not putting off nightly routines waiting around for a video chat.

When considering whether to integrate video communication into a parenting plan, note that a Court has to statutorily consider various factors when entering parenting time orders. The factors relevant to open communication are enumerated in C.R.S. 14-10-124 (1.5)(a) and are as follows:

“(III) The interaction and interrelationship of the child with his or her parents, his or her siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interests;
(VI) The ability of the parties to encourage the sharing of love, affection, and contact between the child and the other party…
(VII) Whether the past pattern of involvement of the parties with the child reflects a system of values, time commitment, and mutual support;
(XI) The ability of each party to place the needs of the child ahead of his or her own needs.”

While it is important to voice concerns about why video communication might not be appropriate in your Denver child custody case, in a situation where both parents are fit and appropriate, both parents should be accommodating to a video communication provision in their parenting plan.

If you have questions about how to implement communication provisions into your parenting plan, or have other questions about parenting time provisions in general, contact Plog & Stein to arrange for a consultation.

Author Photo

Stephen Plog, co-founder of Plog & Stein, P.C. in 1999, is a dedicated family law attorney with almost two decades of expertise in Denver. Focused exclusively on family law since 2001, he excels in both intricate legal writing and courtroom litigation, having navigated cases in all Denver metropolitan area District Courts. Steve’s comprehensive background, including a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and a law degree from Quinnipiac University School of Law, underscores his commitment to providing insightful and personalized representation in family law matters.