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North Carolina and electronic visitation

This blog has previously touched on the basic types of child custody that are used by North Carolina family courts in divorce and non-marital custody determinations. To refresh, there is legal custody, which deals with decision-making regarding the child's health, education, and other important issues, and physical custody, which determines where the child will reside. Either of these types of custody can be 'joint' or 'sole,' meaning that either both parties, or only one parent, will have that type of custody. A common arrangement is to give both parents joint legal custody, while giving one parent sole physical custody.

In this type of arrangement, the court will often give the noncustodial parent some form of visitation. This visitation is usually in-person and occurs either under supervision, or, more commonly, unsupervised. Typically, a visitation arrangement specifies when visits are to occur and for how long.. This is sometimes termed 'liberal and reasonable' visitation.

Sometimes, however, a parent may be unable meet with a child in-person. Perhaps the parent had to move away for work, or is serving in the military and is stationed elsewhere, or he or she is in a different location taking care of other relatives. In such cases, a North Carolina court can grant 'electronic visitation.' Under section 50-13.2 of the state's general statutes, a court may grant such visitation if it is in the best interests of the child, whether the equipment to conduct electronic visitation is accessible, available and affordable to the parents, and anything else the court may deem appropriate to consider when making such a finding. The court can also set times during which such visitation can be utilized and split the costs between the parties as necessary and appropriate.

The law does state that electronic visitation should not be used by the court in place of regular custody or visitation, but rather to supplement it. It also is not to be considered when determining amounts of child support, or to justify the custodial parent taking the child out of the jurisdiction. As these matters can be challenging, people with questions about child custody or visitation in North Carolina may wish to consider contacting an experienced family attorney.

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