What is Internet Visitation (Virtual Visitation)?
Internet or virtual visitation is when a parent and child are able to see each other via webcams over the internet. This gives them the opportunity to see each other face to face in addition to talking on the phone and in-person visitation.
How does that work?
Each person (you and your child) has a setup where they are. At a pre-arranged time, you both logon and start your webcam and sound. You are able to see and hear each other almost as if you were in the same room. You can read books together, play games and almost any other activity that you can do in person.
Is it hard to learn?
Most of the software you could use is built to be really intuitive and easy. Where kids are concerned, they ave probably been around computers since the day they were born and they tend to take to it really easily.
What about legally?
In order to make virtual visitation a part of your custody agreement, you need to have a parenting plan that allows for it. Currently, although it is possible to have it legally enforced, many parents still have to fight for that right. Unfortunately, it isnt given as freely as other types of visitation. There are currently virtual visitation laws on the books in several states including Texas, Missouri, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, South Carolina, Utah and New Jersey. You can keep up with current legislation efforts and read more about the legalities of internet visitation at InternetVisitation.org
Virtual Visitation as a Substitute for in Person Visitation
Internet Visitation doesn’t completely substitute for in-person visitation. Nothing can replace being in person. But where distance would otherwise make it impossible to see each other, It makes it bearable. It has been invaluable in my own arrangement! Having both parents set up with an internet connection allows for sending pictures and cards back and forth as well which is an excellent supplement to written correspondence.
2) You need hardware including a webcam, a headset with a mic on it (you can use speakers and a mic but you get a nasty echo) and a fast enough computer (enough RAM, fast enough CPU) to run the software (#1 above). You can look for a used system or get by with a low end system for well under $500. We recommend some hardware in the long distance parenting store.
3) You need a fast enough internet connection. You really need a high speed (DSL or cable) internet connection to make it worth while.
This scenario should exist at both ends of the communication – both you and your child’s home.
How much does all this cost?
That system can be set up for under $500.00, easily. A system that will be faster, easier and longer lasting will be a little more expensive. The other cost involved is a monthly internet service charge and a phone line.. or high speed internet service, which is bundled with your cable or existing phone service. Additionally, you may wish to invest in firewalls etc. Any arrangement will have cost associated with it, though. If my son were to stay with me in-person part time, I would still need to pay for food and gas for transportation and such. I chalk my internet cost up to the cost of maintaining a home for my child.. just as though I were caring for him part time in my own home.