Did your Ex offer to buy your 10 year old a cell phone for Christmas? Or perhaps he bought the cell phone already and your 10 year old son comes home and is bursting at the seams with excitement over his new cell phone that Dad bought him. You try to not let the surprise or frustration show on your face because your son is so excited, but you are pretty ticked.
Then a flood of questions come rushing into your head:
- Shouldn’t my Ex have discussed our 10 year old having his own cell phone before purchasing it?
Yes, prior to purchasing a cell for your child you should consult with the other parent and attempt to agree on whether you believe that it is appropriate for your child to have a cell phone. This is a fact specific analysis and will be based on a number of factors, including age of the child, whether your child is responsible, whether your child is involved in activities that he may have to call for a ride home, whether your child has the ability to communicate with both parents on the phone without having his own cell phone, and the cost of the cell phone and plan, among other things.
- Will my Ex use my son’s phone to interfere with my parenting time?
Perhaps you and your Ex do not get along (shocking, I know) and you are concerned that he wants your son to have a cell phone to interfere with your parenting time. This is a legitimate concern and I have seen this happen many times. When you and your Ex are discussing whether your child should have a cell phone I recommend setting forth some general rules about communication with your son. Neither of you should be interfering with the other parent’s parenting time or minor decisions that are made by the other parent during their parenting time. You may also want to limit when your son can use his cell phone, such as no calls after 9:00 p.m. or no cell phone is his bedroom when he is sleeping at night.
- Will my Ex use my son’s phone to monitor me?
This is a legitimate concern for many people, particularly because one of you should probably have a “Find your Phone App” on your phone or tablet in the event that your son misplaces his phone, which as a mother myself I can tell you happens quiet often. The answer to this question is easy – neither of you should be using your son’s phone to monitor the other parent. If this occurs it is reasonable to put additional limits on the phone’s usage, such as not allowing your son to access the phone while he is with you except for designated times when he can speak with the other parent. I know this will be wildly unpopular to your son and you may be hesitant to make this decision, but as a parent not all decisions are easy.
- What if my Ex asks me to contribute to the cost of the phone and monthly plan?
When you and your Ex are talking about the phone you should discuss who is responsible for the cost of the phone and the monthly bill. Generally, a cost such as a cell phone is not covered under the Child Support that one of you may pay the other. In discussing who pays or what percentage you both contribute to the phone and monthly plan you will also have to discuss what type of plan your child should be on. Should your child have the ability to talk and text only or should your child be able to access the internet on the phone. If your child is able to access the internet one of you may wish to monitor the phone and Apps on the phone in order to ensure that your child is not communicating with anyone that you and your Ex do not approve.
- What happens if my 10 year old breaks the phone while he is with me? Am I stuck buying a new phone?
Fingers crossed you do not have to deal with this issue, but kids are kids and they can be careless. You should make sure the phone has a protective carrier and a protective film over the screen. If the phone breaks when your son is with you (and you didn’t stomp on it intentionally with your high heel in frustration) it is reasonable for you and your Ex to share in the cost of a replacement phone; however, if your son breaks his phone you may also want to discuss whether he is old enough and responsible for a phone after all.
Melissa Knoerzer, Esq. focuses her practice on all aspects of divorce and family law. Experiencing issues this holiday season with co-parenting? Contact our Haddonfield office today to schedule an initial consultation.