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Cell Phones for Children?

You are divorced and your ex blocks communication when the kids are with them, so you decide to go out and purchase a cell phone for each of them, so they can call you anytime and you can call them, when they are with the other parent? good idea? Is it allowed? Must the other parent allow the children to have their cell phones? Must the other parent allow you to call them whenever you want? Must the other parent make the children call you while in their care? Can the court make you have a cell phone for your children? Is there an age when it may be inappropriate for a minor child to even have a cell phone? What type of a cell phone, the latest Apple i phone 7 or Samsung Galaxy? Who pays for the cell phone? Who pays for the monthly cell phone bill? If a smart phone, does the child now have access to the internet whenever they want? Should there be restrictions placed on the child about the use of the cell phone? Have I got you thinking?

Twenty years ago, we didn’t have these issues. The truth is the law has not kept up with the pace of technology. Let’s start with this. Both parents have a duty to cooperate with one another and allow reasonable communication regarding matters pertaining to the minor children. There is nothing in the custody statute about the children having a cell phone, and I doubt most courts on their own, would order the parents to buy a cell phone for their children. However, parties sometimes do agree to it, and if you do that, that is a binding court order and a person can be held in contempt for failing to cooperate with the child having the cell phone, or paying for it. If you agree to it, you have to adhere to the court orders that govern that subject.

If you do not agree to it and there is no court order on the issue, I don’t believe the other parent can be compelled to cooperate with making the children call you when the children are in their care or allow you to call them at all times of day when you want to talk to them. To some extent, that is interference with the other parent’s placement time. The other side of the issue is a parent should be allowed reasonable access to the children, even when in the care of the other parent. Issues may come up, such as school work, an activity, a play date, where the parent may have good reason to want to talk directly to the child, depending on the child’s age.

In terms of the cost, if you didn’t agree to it, you aren’t going to have to pay for it. If the other parent wants the child to have a cell phone, it is going to be entirely their obligation.

Whether a child should have a cell phone at all is another issue. Children grow up fast in today’s society, perhaps too fast. Does a 9 year old really need a state of the art Apple i phone 7? When children are teenagers, it may make some sense for the child to have a cell phone, but they may not need the fanciest, high tech latest smart phone on the market. It also raises questions on access to the internet. The internet can be a wonderful tool for educational purposes and shopping; however, it has its evils, including porno sites, and other inappropriate web sites for minor children. You have to monitor what your children are watching and what they have access to, whether on a home computer, laptop, or smart phone.

The long and short of it is there really is not any particular good answer or solution to the problem. If you agree in your divorce settlement agreement to provide and pay for a cell phone for your minor children, then you must follow the court orders or petition the court to change it. If you didn’t agree to it in any court orders, both parents should discuss why the child should be provided a cell phone at all, and if so, how that phone should be paid for and used, including the internet. If you were married, you presumably would be doing so. Just because you are divorced, doesn’t mean you can’t try to have an intelligent adult like conversation with your ex on this very important issue, one in which all of us as parents need to face as our children mature. What say you?

For more information on this article, contact Karp & Iancu.

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