Using Electronic Communication to Exercise Parenting Time
Any divorced or separated parent who shares child custody knows how precious the time with their child is, and that the demands of work, school, and outside activities can make it difficult to exercise parenting time as frequently as the child and parent would like. Having a consistent and meaningful relationship with a child is one of the biggest factors in the child’s healthy development and overall wellbeing. With today’s technology, parents have additional options to stay in contact with their child if physical visits are not available. Electronic communication, whether it be through email, text, or virtual chat, can play a significant role in facilitating daily or more frequent communication between a child and parent, but unlike the exercise of parenting time in-person, electronic communication is subject to easier interference from the other parent. On the other hand, it can serve to allow continuing contact when parents dispute child custody rights, and Florida has a statute on its use in these matters. Electronic communication is meant to serve as a supplement, not a replacement for physical contact between parents and their child, but can be a valuable tool for defusing parental conflict and providing an outlet for increased parenting time. A discussion of how Florida evaluates electronic communication orders in child custody matters, and types of electronic communication methods parents can use to establish this contact, will follow below.
What Qualifies as Electronic Communication?
There are many modes of non-face-to-face communication options for people today, making frequent contact fairly easy to maintain. In fact, there are so many options, which continue to expand as technology develops, the Florida Legislature left the definition of this term, for child custody purposes, broad so it could encompass unforeseen technological advances. Thus, as long as the judge determines a particular option is appropriate, any form of electronic communication is acceptable, and could include any of the following:
- Phone calls;
- Video calls;
- Email; and
- Social media.
When Will a Court Order Its Use?
Just like any other custody matter, the best interests of the child will control whether a judge will issue an order for electronic communication. In addition, the judge must look at:
- The availability, accessibility, and affordability of electronic communication equipment;
- If there is a history of substance addiction or domestic violence that would cause issues; or
- If there are other material facts/issues that should influence the outcome.
Note that there is a presumption that phone communication is in the best interests of the child, and it will be ordered it as a standard part of custody cases unless a detriment to the child is proven if he/she speaks to the parent. Further, if electronic communication is ordered, the court may impose safeguards or guidelines to ensure the communication will benefit the child. The farther a parent lives from a child, the more in favor courts will be of an electronic communications order, though some face-to-face parenting time should still be a big component of seeing the child.
Because electronic communication is more easily blocked by a parent, it is important that parents sharing custody collaborate and facilitate this contact. Contact information should be freely provided, and if changes are made, the law requires the other parent be updated within seven days. Of course, if communication is blocked, the parent deprived of this time may seek to enforce the electronic communication order, and working with an experienced family law attorney is the best avenue to restore contact with the child.
Get Legal Advice
Parents want a close relationship with their children, and if you have concerns about exercising parenting time or otherwise maintaining contact, speak with a family law attorney. The attorneys at the Donna Hung Law Group know the issues you are facing, and how to use the law to get you the best possible outcome. Contact the Orlando law firm at (407) 999-0099 for a consultation.