Caldwell, ID asked in Family Law and Child Custody for Idaho

Q: Ex bought my 9-yr-old daughter a smart phone without my permission. Do I have to allow her to use it?

Long-standing rule in my house (and in my sister’s house for cousins) is that you get a phone when you’re 10. My older daughter (not ex’s bio child) got a reg phone at age 10 (while I was still with ex). Ex told me that he bought it and it will be used at my house “end of discussion”. I do not want her to have a phone until she’s 10 because it’s a responsibility and to try to keep things equitable for my kids. Even at 10, I do not think a smart phone is appropriate. She is always with someone with access to a phone and has never been restricted on contacting ex. Do I have to keep the phone and allow her to use it?

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1 Lawyer Answer
Kevin M Rogers
Kevin M Rogers
  • Divorce Lawyer
  • Boise, ID
  • Licensed in Idaho

A: Let me put this in simple terms: "NO," you don't have to let her have a phone while she's with YOU (unless it specifically says you must in your divorce / custody decree), but the bigger question:

1. Is this a "hill you're willing to die on?" In other words, is THIS ISSUE an issue you're willing to argue and fight with your daughter every time she comes to see you? Long experience tells me that you MIGHT be able to pull it off when she comes to your house, but you'll be teaching her that when she comes to see you she has to be "sneaky" and "more careful" to "not piss off mom," when she comes to see you. IS that really what you want to teach her? When parents divorce, they are typically told by the judge that "things are different now," and that "you're going to have to get used to different rules, different behavior, different everything" that will happen in the other parent's home. After all, isn't that why you split in the first place? But once the Decree is signed, you really have to learn that lesson that both parents have the right to be parents, the way they want to be parents; and the sooner you realize that the less grief you'll have as a parent in raising this daughter. If you restrict your daughter when she comes to see you, she might stop coming to see you. Wouldn't it be smarter to have a chat with her and say, "honey I realize that there are different rules for you when you're not in my home, but you're aware of my concerns with you having a phone at age 10, aren't you?" "So, if you're going to have a phone, I won't object, but only on one condition: that at any time, if I want to see your phone, you will never refuse to hand it to me and you will not try to hide it from me." The daughter shouldn't be TOO upset at this, at age 10. She might be totally angry and resentful about such a demand, at age 15 or 16, but probably not at age 10. So, the choice is yours. I've seen parents spent tens of thousands of dollars on lawyers trying to convince a judge that they should agree to restrict a 10 yr. old from a phone. The judge (sometimes) empathizes with you, sometimes they roll their eyes etc. but NEVER do I see them agree to let one parent jeopardize their relationship with a parent by allowing a parent to tighten down the rules for the child "at their house."

Tim Akpinar agrees with this answer

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