Arizona parents embroiled in child custody disputes may have another avenue available to ensure visitation. Known as virtual visitation, this kind of arrangement is a catch-all term encompassing the use of telephones and Internet resources, such as email, video chat and instant messaging, to allow children to stay in touch with a non-custodial parent when they cannot be present. While Arizona has no formalized law concerning virtual visitation, it is nevertheless considered a viable option for enhanced visitation.
In nearly all cases, virtual visitation is considered to be in addition to traditional visitation rights. Supporters of virtual visitation observe that it allows parents and children to remain in closer contact more readily, affording the noncustodial parent the opportunity to attend functions, such as plays, recitals and sports activities, virtually when they cannot be present physically. Virtual visitation can also help enhance parenting time.
There are concerns that some parents may improperly influence the court to permit extended geographic moves that are not in the scope of the original custody agreement because of the belief that virtual visitation is essentially the same as other forms of parenting. The idea that a custodial parent may refuse physical visitation based on exercise of virtual visitation is another potential point of conflict.
In the case of a child custody dispute, the best interests of the child must come first in court. An attorney may recommend virtual visitation as part of the custody agreement, providing that physical visitation is also an option as determined by the court or the parents. Virtual visitation may also be considered in cases where the noncustodial parent and child are separated by distance, but it is not generally considered a substitute for physical visitation.