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New technology creates opportunity, challenges for child custody

Alabama residents have become well versed in using the tools of modern technology in their everyday lives. It is no surprise then that, when it comes to divorce, couples may use these tools to facilitate better communication, such as through email, texting and social media.

A new study suggests many couples are not using these methods of communication in a positive way, however. The study, conducted by the University of Missouri, instead showed couples were using technology against their ex-spouses, many times to the detriment of their children. For instance, negative comments and inappropriate behavior on sites such as Facebook have become increasingly common, creating more trouble between couples and difficult child custody issues.

Despite the findings of the study, experts agree the modern tools of technology can be used to improve relationships among families, and aid in child custody matters. For instance, a new phenomenon known as virtual visitation is now being used by many parents to stay in better contact with their kids, often through video conferencing, instant messaging or other methods. Indeed, virtual visitation is becoming an increasingly common part of a child custody order.

Virtual visitation, or electronic visitation, is not meant to replace traditional visitation, but to supplement it. Similar to traditional visitation, however, courts will consider the best interests of the child in determining whether to order virtual visitation.

Some caution whether electronic visitation, in effect, stands as a substitute for regular visitation. Others embrace the new possibilities presented by the technology, however, as non-custodial parents have better access to their children and can communicate more frequently or more intimately than a basic telephone conversation, for example.

Source: NY Daily News, “Social media often used as cruel tool in divorce,” Aug. 29, 2012