Electronic Communication Issues in Child Custody Cases

smiling man looking at a tablet

If you are facing a child custody, divorce, paternity or relocation case in Florida, Florida the subject of electronic communication with the children is certain to be an issue. In a world with cellular phones, Skype, FaceTime and social media and messaging the Florida legislature has passed a statute that governs when a court should order electronic communication between a parent and child in child custody cases. The Court Ordered Electronic Communication Between A Parent and A Child Act is found in Florida Statute 61.13003. The statute instructs the court to consider the following factors in determining when a court should order electronic communication. The factors are:

1. Whether electronic communication is in a child’s best interests.

2. Whether communication equipment and technology to provide electronic communication is

reasonably available, accessible, and affordable.

3. Each parent’s history of substance abuse or domestic violence.

4. Any other factor that the court considers material.

Who Has the Burden of Proof when Electronic Communication is an Issue in a Child Custody Case?

The statute clearly creates a rebuttable presumption that it is in the best interest of the child to have reasonable telephone communication with the parent not exercising time sharing. The party who is opposing the electronic communication has the burden of rebutting the presumption in favor of the telephonic communication. While the statute creates this rebuttable presumption as to telephonic communication the statue is silent on whether the presumption is to be applied to video conferencing like Skype or FaceTime. Through our experience litigating this issue our Florida divorce and child custody attorneys have seen that most courts apply the same standards when faced with a parent requesting video conferencing.

May the Court Set Safeguards on Electronic Communications in Child Custody Cases?

The statute clearly grants the court the authority to safeguard the child, as may be required in certain cases for the safety and wellbeing of the child. The statute states: “The court may set safeguards or guidelines for electronic communication.” Our Florida divorce and child custody lawyers have seen courts restrict the length of the communication and in some cases designate restrictions on when the communication can occur. In extreme cases our Florida child custody attorneys have seen courts order that the other parent may monitor the communication between the parent and child. In one extreme case the court even allowed the parent to terminate the communication if inappropriate topics were being discussed.

Who Should Pay for the Cost of the Communication?

If the court determines that additional costs will be incurred to implement the communication between the parent and the child, then the court has the authority to allocate such expenses, if they arise solely from the electronic communication, between the parents. In allocating the expenses between the parents, the court must look at the financial circumstances of each of the parents.

When Must the Parent Provide the Contact Information Needed to Facilitate the Communication?

Upon entry of the order granting electronic communication in child custody or relocation case, the parties shall provide the necessary contact information to facilitate the communication. Following the child custody order, if a parent’s access information changes there are required to notify the other parent of any change with 7 days after the change in access information.

Our Florida Child Custody Lawyers are Here to Help

Our Florida child custody and divorce attorneys know that while electronic communication should be used to supplement a parent’s face-to-face contact with his or her minor child, that it is never a replacement for spending quality time with your child. Our Florida family law attorneys will zealously advocate for your time-sharing rights and you right to have electronic communication with your children. Even if your original order fails to provide for electronic communication, we can have the court hear your request for electronic communication without filing a modification of child custody, which streamlines the process. Call our office today to schedule a free consultation. Our attorneys serve Florida, Panama City, Fort Walton, Pensacola and Orlando.

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