If you are going to be a long-distance parent after separation or divorce, your priority is remaining part of your child’s life from hundreds or even thousands of miles away. That means regular communication (“virtual visitation”) will be an important part of your parenting plan.
Since most of your parenting time will be over Zoom or other video chat systems, there should be clear, detailed provisions for when and how often you can visit with your child.
What should you include in your communication plan?
By having a detailed communication plan, you can minimize conflict and confusion over when your child can visit with you. That’s particularly important if they’re still too young to have their own access to a computer, tablet or phone. Having a communication plan, with a schedule, in place, also gives your child some much-needed predictability and security.
If everyone’s schedules are still in flux, you should at least designate how often you’ll visit with your child. This could be every morning and evening, once a day or every other day, for example. Be sure to keep time zone differences and your child’s school and extracurricular schedule in mind.
Of course, there will be times when you or your child can’t make a scheduled visit. It’s a good idea to have a provision that allows for a make-up call as soon as possible. You may also want to include a provision about whether your co-parent can be present during these visits.
You might also want to stipulate that not allowing your child to talk to you can’t be a form of punishment for them – even if their phone or computer privileges have been temporarily taken away – or a way for your co-parent to punish you.
What if your co-parent is getting in the way of these visits?
If your child seems to always be sick, asleep or at a friend’s house when you call as scheduled, your co-parent could potentially be interfering with your parenting rights. As long as you’re sticking to the schedule and not abusing your rights by trying to contact your child multiple times a day, this kind of interference isn’t acceptable.
Whether you need to work out a communication plan, modify the one you have or your co-parent isn’t abiding by it, it’s wise to have legal guidance. This can help you protect your relationship with your child.