By Chris Kramer
A proposed Illinois child visitation law would address child visitation and relationship issues that may develop when the noncustodial parent lives out of state following a divorce by recognizing visitations via the Internet.
Specifically, a recent story in the Daily Herald detailed how this proposed Illinois divorce law would take advantage of the convenience of modern technology and recognize visitations via email, instant messaging, video conferencing and other online means. With that said, these online visits would not replace actual visits between the noncustodial parent and his or her children as required under respective Illinois child visitation guidelines.
This proposed addition to Illinois visitation laws would also forbid judges from using these online visits as a means to approve child custody relocation requests. Online child visitation in Illinois would either be court-approved or voluntary under this proposed law.
If such legislation involving child visitation in Illinois were to become law, the Daily Herald story reported that Illinois would join Wisconsin as the only states with similar online visitation laws. So far, this proposed supplement to current Illinois child visitation laws has drawn mixed reviews.
The story specifically detailed how some noncustodial parents have been using Web cameras as a means to communicate with their children following a divorce in Illinois.
The story examined the situation of John Speer, who moved to Texas following his divorce in Illinois. Despite the long distance between himself and his two children Betsy and Trevor, John has been able to put a face to his voice by meeting with his kids at least one hour per week via his computer and Web camera. 12-year-old Betsy Speer called the experience better than "talking on the phone" because she actually gets to see her dad when talking to him.
The children's mother, Brenda, admitted to initially having some reservations about online visits in the story but is now a proponent of their benefits. Since her kids have not been able to see their father in Texas very often during the eight years following her Illinois divorce, Brenda Speer called online visits a "compromise" when considering the high costs and time commitments of long-distance travel.
Such positive developments are one reason why Kane County Associate Judge James Hallock is a big proponent of online visitations. While admitting that there is no substitute for the nuclear family, Hallock said in the story that longstanding definitions of family are changing nowadays and thus must be met accordingly with positive readjustments. Hallock commented that online visits are a simple way to mend relationships following Illinois divorces.
Critics of this proposed Illinois child visitation law have initially wondered whether many families know about this type of technology and if there is enough education about online visits. As for those people who are aware of this technology, there is a concern among critics that they may use online visits as an excuse to ditch required visits with their children.
Critics justifiably wonder about how damaging the effects may be on children who have built back relationships with a noncustodial parent via online visits and then been disappointed when that parent failed to meet them in person.
Lawyers and judges have also been skeptical of granting online visits following Illinois divorces. Since online visits do not fall under a well-defined legal area, lawyers and judges have also worried about potential instances of abuse.
This proposed Illinois child visitation law is currently being considered in the state Senate after passing unanimously in the House. The Daily Herald story added that seven other states are considering very similar concepts.