Talk about a large family to care for. Greek king of the gods, Zeus, was married seven times and had, by most estimates, 92 children1. Getting around to see all those kids was tough, even for Zeus. He loved to visit earth, and he enjoyed (if that is the correct word) involving himself in his children’s and mere mortals’ lives. In a sort of ultimate virtual visitation, Zeus could show up anytime, anywhere, to mess with anyone. Fortunately today, in Virginia, we need not compete for face time with Zeus; we can use some excellent virtual visitation tools to stay in touch with our children.
A Father’s Right to Visitation with His Children
In ancient Greece, bad things happened to good people, so (with plenty of time on their hands and without benefit of internet, Netflix and other distractions) the Greeks wove elaborate tales of gods, demi-gods and mortals suffering and solving problems. Today, divorced couples with children have needs, too; they need to keep in touch with their children, even when distance and a divorce decree separate them.
The parent who does not retain physical custody of a child in a Virginia divorce has the legal right to — and Code of Virginia mandates for — visitation.
Visitation usually takes the form of having the kids over every other weekend, all summer, at major holidays, or a similar schedule. What happens, though, if you are, say, a long-haul trucker, or a military man stationed overseas, or you simply had to relocate to beautiful Boston for business?
Virtual visitation is an answer. Your darling daughter and you the Dad can discuss dating, dinosaurs and donuts with her in Dinwiddie and you in Denver.
Tools of the Trade
Hephaestus, one of Zeus’s sons, made himself useful around the house (well, Mount Olympus, anyway) by building things. He had a lot of ironworking, stoneworking and other tools. He did not have Skype.
Skype is one of the virtual visitation tools Virginia Dads enjoy using to see and hear their children. It is in the same vein as Facebook Video, Apple FaceTime, and Google Video.
Video resolution depends on your ISP and, to some extent, the route the signal travels through oceanic cables and bouncing off satellites, but usually the Dad aboard a U.S. Navy vessel in the Indian Ocean can feel like he is sitting right in front of his boy in Virginia Beach.
Other Handy Tools for Long Distance Visitation
Besides video conferences and a journal in which you note all visitations (virtual and RL), many other tools can give you at least some of the connectedness you want:
- Social Media — Asynchronous interaction means you and your kids do not need to arrange a specific time to chat, but you are not actually hearing each other’s voices. Two other drawbacks of social media are the number of people who can see your discussion, and the lack of transparency in who, exactly, is writing their side of the conversation
- Email — Emails are preserved records, so be extremely careful in what you write to avoid misinterpretations, vagueness, or empty promises. Emails, though, are a great way to keep conversations and thoughts going back and forth. You can keep up with your children’s interests easily by reviewing the threads.
- Live Chat and Instant Messaging (IM) — Far less formal than email, IM has a better sense of spontaneous conversation. If your child is especially young, this may be a preferred way to chat since few “rules” apply, including sentences, spelling, or even words (emoticons are widespread).
- Telephone text messaging — You can be as hip and cool as your teenager’s friends if you text message, but you have a whole other language to learn. And, BTW, using “hip” and “cool” makes you a luser. Don’t believe us? Look it up.
- Telephone calls — Hearing their voices can make your day, so take advantage of the power of a simple telephone call to talk candidly with your own children without interference from their mother.
Can Your Wife Interfere with Your Virtual Visitation?
Zeus was one bad dude until Typhon, the god of monsters2, showed up to wreck Zeus’s house. This was one visitation that did not go well. After a long, home-wrecking struggle, Zeus eventually won, but not without a permanently bruised ego and a lot of broken furniture.
You may struggle, too, with visitation tools and contact with your children. The biggest issue is custodial interference, in which your ex-wife deliberately tries to come between you and your visitations. She may use excuses, such as a broken modem, or slow internet, or a computer with a virus. She may eavesdrop on your conversations. She may grill your kids about the topics and content of your private conversations.
She is encouraging parental alienation, a violation of Code of Virginia § 20-124.3, which protects the best interests of the child.
Though not from Greek mythology, this little phrase from the Code should be inscribed in the front of your visitation journal (you do keep a record of contacts with your children, don’t you?):
“The propensity of each parent to actively support the child’s contact and relationship with the other parent, including whether a parent has unreasonably denied the other parent access to or visitation with the child …”
You may need to refer your ex-wife to this, should she attempt to disrupt your virtual visitation. Your attorney knows the Code of Virginia and knows other tools you can use to ensure smooth and positive virtual visitation with your children, no matter where you are.
To consult our attorneys at The Firm for Men about virtual visitation, child custody and other family law issues, please telephone us at 757-383-9184. We may have to brush up on our Greek mythology, but we know Virginia law inside and out.