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Visitation Via Cyberspace: Is It As Good As the Real Thing?

Fathers rights groups are up in arms about a recent New Jersey case that could make it easier for a custodial parent to get permission to move away from the non-custodial parent. The fear is that this case could set a precedent, lowering the bar on other “move away” cases and alienating non-custodial parents from their children.

In this case, the ex-wife planned to move from New Jersey to accept a permanent job in California. She had custody of their 9-year-old daughter and proposed a visitation schedule that would give her ex-husband the same number of days that he currently had, clustered around school vacations. She further proposed setting up a web site with a video camera so that their daughter could regularly visit with her father over the internet. The father objected to the move, arguing that it would hurt his relationship with his daughter and was therefore not in her best interest.

“This will be another tool for judges to further distance fathers from their children’s lives,” Stuart Miller, of the American Fathers Coalition, told the Associated Press. The coalition believes family courts are biased in favor of mothers.

The New Jersey court ruled that “every time a custodial parent moves to a distant location, the ability of the non-custodial parent to exercise visitation is adversely affected.…However, that fact alone may not be contrary to the best interest of the child, so long as an alternate visitation schedule can be created that continues and preserves the relationship between the child and the non-custodial parent….We believe that the mother’s suggested use of the Internet to enhance visitation was both creative and innovative.”

Fathers rights advocates argue that it is already difficult for many fathers to gain access to their children and that this “solution” is likely to make things more difficult. Their concern is that children with restricted access might distance themselves emotionally from their fathers. Interestingly, it is not uncommon for fathers with limited visitation to gradually detach themselves as well.





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