Monday, August 30, 2010

USA - A judge has required a divorced to provide access to children via Skype video-conferencing

[] A state judge in Suffolk County has ordered a mother to make her two children available for Skype online video conferencing with their father as a condition of her move to Florida.

The decision marks the first reported New York case in which a judge has ordered a relocating parent to facilitate Skyping -- i.e., the use of Skype conferencing software -- between her children and her ex-spouse as a condition of her move, according to a Westlaw search.

"The Petitioner, at her own cost and expense, will see to it, prior to re-location, that the Respondent, as well as the children, are provided the appropriate internet access via a Skype device which allows a real time broadcast of communications between the Respondent and his children," Supreme Court Justice Jerry Garguilo wrote in Baker v. Baker, 29610-2007.

The parties, James and Debra Baker, were married in 2000 and divorced in 2008. They have a 9-year-old son and a 6-year-old daughter.

The Bakers' marital home is in foreclosure and Ms. Baker, a bookkeeper, has been unemployed since she was laid off in December. Mr. Baker works for a construction company and has a take-home salary of $600 per month.

Earlier this year, Ms. Baker asked the court for permission to move to Venice Beach, Fla., to live with her parents and seek full-time employment.

Mr. Baker, a recovering alcoholic who recently underwent surgery for bladder cancer, opposed the move.

Garguilo held a two-day hearing in July.

"The Respondent pled with the Court not to take his children away as he loves them dearly and is now sufficiently rehabilitated to become a permanent presence in their lives," Garguilo wrote.

In a decision last week, the judge granted the wife's petition and, in an apparent first for New York, ordered her to use Skype.

"Common sense, logic and a realistic view of life on Long Island clearly indicate that the Petitioner and children cannot maintain a residence, heat, clothe themselves, provide for transportation and enjoy only the basic necessities on the monies that are currently available," the judge wrote. "The relocation is conditional. [T]he Petitioner will make the children available three times per week for not less than one hour per connection to communicate via Skype with their father."

Jennifer H. Goody of Wand, Powers & Goody in Huntington represented Ms. Baker.

Goody said Ms. Baker was not opposed to the Skype condition.

"That was something the judge came up with himself to foster the relationship," Goody said. "I think the judge was trying to strike a balance to make sure the children have a relationship with their father."

Solo-practitioner Bruce P. Vetri of Bayport represented Mr. Baker. Vetri did not return a call for comment.

Ex-Wife Ordered to Provide Skype Access for Husband, Kids

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