A state Supreme Court justice has granted a divorced Coram woman's request to move to Florida with her son and daughter - on the condition that she set up a Skype computer program so the children can regularly see and talk with their father.
The ruling puts James Baker, a Coram construction worker who is not particularly computer savvy, in a position of having to parent by computer, said his attorney.
The director of a national divorce center said visitation via Skype - a computer program that allows video conferencing in real time - is uncommon but not unprecedented.
Justice Jerry Garguilo granted Debra Baker's request to move in with family in Venice, Fla., because of economic hardship. She is a former bookkeeper who has been unemployed since December and her house is in foreclosure.
The Bakers' children, who are 6 and 9, will communicate with their father three times a week for at least an hour each time, the order states.
James Baker's attorney, Bruce Vetri, said he is discussing a possible appeal with his client. He said Baker doesn't know how to use Skype and doesn't own a computer, but does have access to one. "He's upset that they are moving 1,200 miles away," Vetri said. "She's moving halfway across the country and doesn't have prospects."
Debra Baker's attorney, Jennifer Goody of Huntington, said her client plans to move within the next week to get her children ready for the coming school year. She noted that the judge's decision also affords James Baker three weeks of unsupervised visitation per year.
"She will be making sure the children will be available by Skype," Goody said. "That is a precondition to moving."
The Bakers married in 2000 and settled their divorce in 2008. Garguilo's decision, published Wednesday in the New York Law Journal, says that "common sense, logic and a realistic view of life of Long Island clearly indicate that [Baker] . . . cannot maintain a residence" locally.
Don Gordon, director of the Ohio-based Center For Divorce Education, said "courts have been allowing a custodial parent to substitute technology for face-to-face communication," though it is rare. Gordon said "technology is certainly better than no contact," but "you can't reach out and touch somebody over the Internet."