Video helps divorced parent stay in touch with child

Photo: Apple iPhone 4 commercial

Photo: Apple iPhone 4 commercial

How is this for a movie plot: A couple splits up and one parent gets full-time custody of their child. The other divorced parent is far away, but tries to keep in touch via Skype. The parent who has custody sabotages the communication by turning off Internet access and other ways. A court of law gets involved and asks both parents to keep detailed logs of all videoconference sessions. Does it sound realistic or too unbelievable? Would it be a comedy or a tragedy?

Well, the scenario is real, and whether there is a happy ending remains to be seen. In an attempt to ease separation stress and maintain relationships between a father and his child who stays with the mother, a Bandra family court has suggested that they use a video-calling app.

In fact the father had been trying to communicate with his child through video calling, but it wasn’t going according to his satisfaction. The father alleged that his ex-wife delayed feeding the child until the video calls, so then the child was either distracted or in a bad mood and likely to throw a tantrum. The mother was told that she must regularly give her child access to the father using video calls, and the further directed the mother to feed her child before a video call takes place.

The court said that the mother “must understand that the access is for the benefit of the child and it could not be used as a weapon to irritate the respondent (husband)”, according to Indian Express.

The mother raised an objection in court court that “till date, access through Skype has only been 60 per cent satisfactory,” and that the e¬mail correspondence and chat history also showed that the child gets “distracted” during Skype chats. In response the court told the mother and father to make a chart about each Skype sessions, including duration of access, the mental condition of the child and a rating of the satisfaction of the session between one and 10.

“To keep it simple, both parties shall prepare the table date- wise, with columns for date of access, duration of the Skype access and immediate mental condition of the child (if the child was throwing tantrums or was happy during the entire session),” the court order read.

While it may all seem a bit dramatic, undoubtedly modern technology does have its uses. “Skype is another good way for the non-custodian parent to have contact with the child specially if he or she is in another city,” family court lawyer Mridula Kadam said.

However, in addition to communications quality issues, video calling isn’t a perfect solution. “The child is often not able to freely communicate with the non-custodian parent due to the presence of the custodian parent in the room,” Kadam said. Things can break down further if one parent is training the child to be unenthusiastic toward the non-custodial partner. Speaking of another case, Kadam gave this example: “This child was barely eight years old she had started telling lies about being busy with work when the father desired to fix another time for Skype, she would hurry up the conversation by saying I am tired or just not talk.”

There is sure to be a sequel to this story.

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