They can be some of the most bitterly contested cases in family law, and some of the most frustrating for parents, lawyers and judges alike.
They’re called “mobility” cases. They happen when one parent wants to relocate their residence to another location (sometimes to another province, country or continent), thereby creating profound access difficulties to the other parent, who opposes the move.
The challenge for the court is to decide whether or not the re-location is in the children’s best interests. Not a particularly easy task for the moving parent, especially where the children have a strong relationship with the parent to be left behind. Relationships which will invariably suffer as a result of the move, regardless of whatever long distance access arrangements are being proposed by the moving parent.
However, there appears to be a growing trend in Canadian courts to minimize the disruption by ordering “virtual visitation” (access via web-cam), as a way for children and parents left behind to maintain regular contact.
So what’s the potential downside to such “virtual visitation”? In my opinion it’s that some parents, and some courts, begin confusing maintaining contact via “virtual visitation” with maintaining a real life, meaningful, child-parent relationship.
After all, there’s no way that a virtual hug can ever replace a real one.