Electronic communication between parents and children might not be harmless during divorce.
Technology like Skype and FaceTime are great ways to communicate electronically, so it makes sense that many parents may want to use this technology to communicate with their children. This technology is particularly helpful when parents are separated from their children by long distance or for military parents who are deployed overseas.
If you are unsure whether you can FaceTime with your child, here is what Florida law has to say on electronic communications with a child during divorce and custody proceedings.
Florida Law on Electronic Communication Between Parent and Child
In 2007, Florida lawmakers added a new law to Florida’s statutes. Section 61.13003 was created to clarify when a court may order electronic communication between a parent and their child. According to the statute, Florida courts must look at a number of factors when deciding whether to order electronic communication between a parent and child.
Factors the court must consider in their determination include:
- Whether electronic communication is in the best interests of the child
- Whether the equipment and technology needed to communicate electronically is reasonably available, accessible and affordable
- The substance abuse or domestic violence history of both parents
- Any other factor the court considers material
Florida courts operate under the presumption that it is in the best interests of the child to have reasonable telephone communication with a parent. Unless the other party is able to rebut this presumption with evidence, Florida courts are required to order telephone communication at the very least.
If a Florida court finds that electronic communication is in the child’s best interests, the court may also impose safeguards and limits on such an order to prevent abuse of electronic communication privileges. Florida courts have broad discretion to set limits on when, where and how electronic communication may occur to promote a safe online communication environment.
If a parent is granted electronic communication privileges, they must provide the other parent with access information to their account as well as the contact information for the child.
Does Electronic Communication Count As Visitation Time?
Florida lawmakers explicitly state in Section 61.13003 that time spent on online communication may not be construed as visitation or time-sharing for the purposes of calculating child support. Rather, electronic communication is simply meant to be a tool for continuing and fostering a healthy relationship between a parent and their child. It is not a substitute or legal replacement for visitation rights.
If electronic communication is something you wish to have with your child, understand that this privilege is not automatic. In order to have a legal order to FaceTime your child, you must request the court to enter an order allowing you to communicate in this way.
Even if a prior order did not allow for this communication, all hope is not lost. With the help of a Florida family lawyer, you can still request electronic communication without showing a substantial change in circumstance, which is ordinarily required for most other order modifications.
If you have questions regarding custody and divorce, or are unaware as to the terms and conditions in, talk to, and retain, a family law attorney who can help. Contact Damien McKinney of The McKinney Law Group to discuss your case further. He can be reached by phone at 813-428-3400 or by e-mail at [email protected]