Sunday, December 06, 2009

E-Access, E-Visitation and Child Mobility

We looked briefly last month at Canadian courts' mixed reception toward the use of Skype and other new online communications tools to facilitate access visitation by non-custodial parents.

Via Margaret Ryzner at Family Law Prof Blog, we learn today that the State of Illinois has now enacted legislation to deal specifically with electronic access and visitation.

The amendments to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act law provide that the availability of electronic communications may not to be considered a factor in child mobility applications, where a custodial parent seeks to move out-of state with a child:
Sec. 609. Leave to Remove Children.
(a) The court may grant leave, before or after judgment, to any party having custody of any minor child or children to remove such child or children from Illinois whenever such approval is in the best interests of such child or children. The burden of proving that such removal is in the best interests of such child or children is on the party seeking the removal. When such removal is permitted, the court may require the party removing such child or children from Illinois to give reasonable security guaranteeing the return of such children.
(b) Before a minor child is temporarily removed from Illinois, the parent responsible for the removal shall inform the other parent, or the other parent's attorney, of the address and telephone number where the child may be reached during the period of temporary removal, and the date on which the child shall return to Illinois.
The State of Illinois retains jurisdiction when the minor child is absent from the State pursuant to this subsection.
(c) The court may not use the availability of electronic communication as a factor in support of a removal of a child by the custodial parent from Illinois.

"Electronic communications" are specifically adopted as a means of exercising access with a child, and are defined in the statute, as follows:

Sec. 607. Visitation.
(1) "Visitation" means in‑person time spent between a child and the child's parent. In appropriate circumstances, it may include electronic communication under conditions and at times determined by the court.
2) "Electronic communication" means time that a parent spends with his or her child during which the child is not in the parent's actual physical custody, but which is facilitated by the use of communication tools such as the telephone, electronic mail, instant messaging, video conferencing or other wired or wireless technologies via the Internet, or another medium of communication.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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