If you live in the Mobile-Baldwin County area and are going through a divorce or are about to go through a divorce, have you ever wondered what sort of visitation the non-custodial parent will be granted? It is a question that many in this situation ask about and is one that is usually easily answered, despite the differences in the way this issue is handled in our local counties.

In theory, a domestic relations and/or Juvenile Court Judge has very wide discretion to fashion particular visitation schedules in each case depending on the facts and circumstances of that case. In reality, however, most Judges in this area have developed their own “standard visitation” schedules that they put in their orders. These can vary slightly from the basic order as well. For instance, in Mobile, a Wednesday night can be added if the parties ask for it, but the Courts will not allow much more that that, despite an agreement between the parties. However in Baldwin County, Wednesday night is part of the standard order. Also, Baldwin County Judges will allow the parties to share custody where the children spend an even amount of time with each parent (two weeks with one and two weeks with the other, for example). The following are the “highlights” of the normal visitation orders in different courts in this area.

In Mobile County it is as follows:
-Every other weekend from Friday at 6pm to Sunday at 6pm.
-One month during the Summer.
-One week at Christmas beginning at 2pm on Christmas Day.
-Thanksgiving and Springbreak holidays alternate in even and odd years.

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I have never really considered “virtual visitation” or contact between parents and children over a computer video connection to be practical. However, after reading Ann Sanner’s AP article titled “‘Virtual’ Visits Pushed in Several States,” I may have to make this part of the visitation options I discuss with certain of my clients. While it obviously should not be used as a substitute for actual physical visitation, in the right circumstances it seems that this could help many parents and children maintain their relationship.

The article above describes a prime example of when virtual visitation would be appropriate and desirable. The Father lives in another country and only gets to exercise in-person visits a few times per year. Even so, his divorce agreement guarantees him contact with his 5 year old daughter by internet video connection and he usually gets to talk to her this way at least two times per week. The fact that they are able to look at one another during these talks seems to make a big difference in the quality of his contact as opposed to mere telephone conversations.

While local Judges may not be familiar with this method of contact, based on the very broad discretion Judges have in this state when it comes to visitation matters, I think it is something they have the power to order now, without the need to have a specific statute autorizing it. With the proliferation of broadband internet connections as well as the ease with which these video connections can be set up, there is no reason to only consider them in situations where the parties are separted by long distances. These contacts could just as easily take place as a part of local visitation situations.

Jim Jeffries | Mobile & Baldwin County Attorney

Jim currently is a member of the Alabama Supreme Court's Advisory Committee on Child Support Guidelines and Enforcement as well as a statewide committee that has been tasked with reviewing and making recommendations for possible revisions to Alabama's version of the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA). Jim was also recently appointed by the President of the Alabama State Bar Association to a serve on a committee whose purpose is to review and comment on Alabama legislation regarding joint custody for a proposal to the Alabama Legislature for possible changes in this legislation.

Jim has attained a Peer Review Ranking of AV from Martindale-Hubbell® - The highest an attorney can be ranked by his peers.

He continues to lecture to attorneys across the state regarding family law issues.

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Jeffries Family Law, LLC

Divorce Attorney | Child Support & Child Custody Attorney | Prenuptial Law Attorney

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