By Jim Buie
Special to The Washington Post
Like many dads this Father's Day, Michael Gough plans to spend some special time with his daughter Saige, 5. He'll probably read and show her some picture books like "Pocahontas." Maybe they'll play a game of checkers. He might make some goofy faces and tell corny jokes to elicit one of her contagious belly laughs.
In Orlando in 2000, Tawny Kaleita Sniderman proposed virtual visitation as a custody solution when she sought to move to Ohio with her new husband. She and her attorney did such a good sales job on its benefits that the judge decided in 2001 that she could be the virtual parent, deciding that her then-10-year-old daughter would stay with her father, Gary Kaleita, in Orlando. The mother had sought primary physical custody. But the judge did not award the father everything he wanted. The father had asserted that liberal virtual visitation access would disrupt household schedules. The judge disagreed, giving the mother permission to contact her daughter as often and as long as she wanted.
Gough would never argue that virtual visitation is the same as being there, but it's a right worth fighting for, he says. He has created a Web site, www.internetvisitation.org, to push legislation in other states, particularly Wisconsin. He plans to promote the Utah law next month as a model for other states when the National Conference of State Legislators meets in Salt Lake City.
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