Co-Parenting in the Digital Age


Co-Parenting in the Digital Age

In this episode, Erin Birt and Tyler Birt delve into the intricacies of co-parenting in today's digital age. They tackle a crucial question: Can a co-parent turn off a child's cell phone during their parenting time? Drawing from a recent blog post, they explore the complexities surrounding trust, safety, and the challenges of unsupervised visitation. Erin and Tyler highlight the importance of electronic device agreements, stressing the need for clear guidelines to navigate co-parenting effectively. Additionally, they provide valuable insights into managing living arrangements during divorce proceedings, focusing on prioritizing children's well-being amid family transitions. Tune in for expert advice on fostering healthy co-parenting dynamics in the digital landscape.

Listen to the Podcast, here.

[00:00] Erin Birt: Welcome to the Restorative Divorce podcast, where we focus on all things divorce and parenting related to help you find clarity, stay informed and stay out of family court. With 20 plus years of family law experience, our attorney and mediator, Erin Birt, has seen too many times how family court will negatively impact your health, your relationship with your kids, and your wallet. This podcast us aims to turn that around and empower our listeners to take back control of their family law process and their lives by working with divorced professionals that seek to help and not hurt. Our goal is to provide you with expert tips that you can implement today to restore your finances, emotional well being, and co parenting skills. Of course, our team at is always here to customize a restorative divorce plan for you. But for now, listen to this episode to get help today.

[00:57] Erin Birt: Well, thank you for joining us for our complimentary gathering. I am Erin Birt. I am the mediator and attorney here at Birt Family Law, and I am joined by my other team members.

[01:09] Tyler Birt: My name is Tyler Birt. I am the paralegal and office manager here at the firm.

[01:14] Karen Hansel: Hi everyone. I'm Karen Hansel. I'm the administrative assistant here at the firm.

[01:19] Erin Birt: And thank you for being here today. This is an opportunity where we can cover either current events, updates, or frequently asked questions. And so if you ever have questions for us you'd like to see us cover at a future complimentary gathering, please feel free to use our contact form on the website. Or if you already have our email or contact information, go ahead and submit those. And if we can't address them at the meeting, we will save those ideas for a future meeting. But today we were going to cover a timely topic that Tyler was going to.

Can my co-parent power off my child's cell phone?

[02:01] Tyler Birt: You know, with spring break coming up and spouses and significant others looking towards that time with their children. An interesting question came up in a blog that can be found on our website. And the question is, can my co parent power off my child's cell phone? And it can be a loaded question. But basically, I think it's a topic regarding unsupervised visitation between co parents after divorce and depending on certain facts in the case. So I think it's an interesting topic to cover here with school breaks coming up.

[02:46] Erin Birt: Yeah, it definitely is. On a lot of parents minds, children are getting electronic devices earlier and earlier. It can either smooth out issues or it can create problems. But either way, it is something that we address in family law all of the time. And I agree, Tyler. I think it comes up a lot in unsupervised parenting time so that just means regular parenting time. When your child is with the other parent, what type of access do you get to have to your child? Can you use the device you provided for them? Are you allowed to track their whereabouts with the device that the child has? Do you have access to do that? And how frequently can you talk to the child without perhaps disrupting the other parent's parenting time? But there's also other ways that electronic devices can be used, and that could be during supervised parenting time, or if a co parent is being monitored, whether that's by a supervisor, or maybe they're being monitored by Soberlink because of substance misuse issues.

And maybe that electronic device becomes a safety device to ensure the child has an outlet, maybe not only to their other parent, but maybe to call, if they need to call emergency responders. Maybe we've identified a safety person, a grandparent, an aunt, a trusted neighbor, that if that child's just feeling like something's not right or they're observing something's not right, that they can have immediate access to that safety person and they can reach out. And so there's many different ways that we use electronic devices these days, but it does also bring up ways that we may have to restrict using electronic devices if it's a violation of privacy. But I would say most of the time, it's a fairly good safety device to have during parenting time. What are your thoughts on children using, or parents using children's electronic devices during the other parents parenting time?

[05:02] Tyler Birt: Well, I think it raises an interesting question. When your child is with the other co parent, the other coparent may feel like they're being watched and everything that they're doing with the child is being recorded or traced. And given the situations that arise can really make that co parent upset. It feels like they're being not trustworthy of being a parent. And I do think it would be hard for the courts to micromanage that. And it's really an issue of, I think it's a great point. When I say unsupervised visitation, that's really just visitation, because supervised visitation comes because of lack of trustworthiness given substance abuse or alcohol abuse, things like that. So there is a trust factor between the co parents that has to occur. And in the scheme of things, I would feel that would be good for the child to have a device anyways, whether it's a co parent or if they're with somebody else, an unrelated party, you want to have access to them. It's just interesting in that how can people rely on the courts to enforce actual parenting?

An electronic device agreement

[06:51] Erin Birt: Well, I think there's a way around that, that maybe. To your point, Tyler, it's very tricky for a court to micromanage electronic device usage or inappropriate device usage. They can either prohibit certain usage, they can encourage certain usage, but these are really just guidelines. And then it comes down to the actual parents and how they're implementing it. But I would submit to everybody an idea that you could use, and we have another blog on it, is to have an electronic device agreement and you're setting guidelines for what's appropriate for the age of your child. What appropriate device can they have? How are we going to pay for that device? Who can use it? What are the terms? Are there parental controls on these devices? So I would say try to keep your own custom tailored approach to using electronic devices within the family. And then if somebody violates that, a court can help you with that. A court can then say, oh, these were the agreed upon guidelines, and it's either clearly not being followed or it's being abused, or this isn't in the best interest of the child. And we can hammer out those details either through legal consulting or through mediation.

But to answer the original question, can a co parent power off my child's device? It depends, and I know people get frustrated when lawyers or mediators answer all questions with, it depends.

But it comes back to some of these topics we're talking about today. If you have an electronic device agreement, does it say that there's quiet time, that there's times that the child's not supposed to be on for screen time's sake, or just because it's dinner time, or there's just periods of time where there should not be an expectation to reach out to a child or to think that a child's going to be using it. But I would say if there's no electronic device agreement and if there are some safety concerns, I would say the parents should not be isolating the child by removing their device and by powering it down. So if there is a safety issue, you're feeling uncertain about things. You should be having some conversations with the co parent that this is not appropriate, you shouldn't turn this off. And if there's no compliance, then you might have to escalate it. You might have to have that person go to mediation before they go to court. Or if, unfortunately, something significant happens that raises a concern or an emergency, you might have to go in for a protective order and use the court. But I think it all stems back to if we're not on the same page with whether someone can power down an electronic device. Let's work on an electronic device agreement. Let's set some parameters. Let's set some guidelines. It's easier than to monitor. It's easier than to say when someone's not complying. Without that, you are left with questions, vagueness, a court that doesn't, it's going to have to start from zero with either prohibiting or encouraging use. So I think best course of action is to really hammer out an electronic device agreement early on. Or if you've already been divorced and separated for some time, do it now. Get a new electronic device agreement. Even if you have teens, hammering out those details can only help the entire situation. Okay. But yeah, check out our website. We've got the blog on the one that Tyler referred. I'll put that in the links below when this goes on YouTube. We also have the electronic device agreement information on our website that can give you more details than we're discussing today.

But talking about this makes me think of some of the other frequently asked questions that have come across our desks. And I think when we were talking a little bit earlier, Karen, you were talking about, it sounds like a lot of people are raising certain questions about living arrangements. Do you mind highlighting the question you've been hearing a lot?

should I move out or should my spouse move out?

[11:11] Karen Hansel: I think the question that has been consistent is, should I move out or should my spouse move out? As we're going through these proceedings, whether you're just starting or whether you're already separated in activity, but maybe not physically separated in your residence, given the markets and all those exterior things in the year that we're in, I think that's a lot of concern. And of course, when children are involved, that becomes even greater concern and how things start and how you manage that through the process, especially at the beginning, that seems to always be the hardest part for folks to understand. Well, what do I do? We decided to do this. Now what? So that seems to be the big one.

Moving for Safety

[11:53] Erin Birt: I agree. It's very hard to remain under the same roof when you are either approaching or going through a process that intends for you to be under or separate residences. And I think that a few things to think about when you're considering this can involve whether or not you have kids. If you have children, think about what's in their best interest. But if there's safety issues, again, maybe having a plan to relocate with the children is the best thing that you can do, and then we can always work out the financial details later.

Under One Roof as a plan

However, if there aren't any big looming safety issues if we're not fighting in front of the children. If it would be better to, financially speaking, keep everybody under the same roof while we work out the details. It could be best to keep the family unit together until we have some concrete details that we can share with the kids. Meaning we are separating, we have a plan. This is what expectations are. And you can have a conversation with the kids instead of just telling them we're divorcing and mom or dad or parent is moving out Saturday. Perhaps if we are able to have more concrete details, usually, and I've heard from the mental health professionals that I work with, it's much better to have a plan in place before you disclose to the children what's going on, because there will never either be confused or have questions.

And if you can't answer their questions about somebody relocating, it's going to again escalate that confusion and fear and hurt. So if there are no significant issues relating to safety, I would say come up with a plan first before you decide to leave. And if you do decide to leave and you can take children, that's generally the recommendation.

Moving is Expensive

 Now, other things to consider. So we've already covered if you have children or safety, we have to consider finances. As you know, just the divorce process is expensive. Well, it's going to get even more expensive when you have two households. Okay. And so a lot of times that emotional knee jerk reaction of is, I've already decided to get divorced, or I heard my partner wants to separate, I'm going to find somewhere else to go. Well, you still have other financial circumstances to pay for or to think about. Or now for this new residence you have to pay for. And so that can put a financial burden on top of an already financial burdensome process. And then during your divorce, you might even have to think about, is all the money you're spending on your new resident something that you might have to reimburse the marital estate for? Because you're spending money not related to your marriage or family. And so there's so many financial complexities to the simple question, should I stay or leave? And so those are just some thoughts to think about. But ideally, have a plan first. Have a financial plan. Have a safety plan. Have a plan for what you're going to tell your children. Great.

6 Step Divorce Plan

[15:26] Karen Hansel: I know that the firm you offer your planning sessions to assist in that thinking or that structure, getting that framework put together as well. So that's been successful for a lot of our future client or potential clients to get their way forward kind of planned out to begin those conversations, so that's always helpful.

[15:45] Erin Birt: Yeah, I just spoke with someone earlier today about planning and the importance of having those details, at least initially worked out before you perhaps move forward. And another resource on our website is we have a six step planning process that we can generally use for almost any situation. It involves homework, it involves thinking of some difficult issues. But what it does is it provides our firm with information that we can then develop a plan with you, give you advice, give you recommendations. And typically then that means a smoother process throughout because we've done all of the early planning. So you can check out on our website the six step divorce process. Again, I'll put another link for that information when we post this video, but I think that might be the only topics that were submitted for today. Unless there's any other questions before we break.

[16:45] Tyler Birt: No?

[16:47] Erin Birt: Okay, well, thank you both, and thank you for bringing up these relevant topics. And I've heard that people watching these videos, it helps proactively answer questions that they might already or they might have wished to ask.

[17:05] Erin Birt: Thanks for listening to the restorative divorce podcast with your hosts, attorney and mediator Erin Birt and our paralegal Tyler Birt. A special thanks to our contributors and to the authors of the many articles that inspire us and keep our clients informed. We hope you enjoyed our deep dive into the separation, divorce, or parenting tips covered today that you can use now to help restore yourself if you strive to improve your life or the lives of your children after a separation or divorce.

[17:36] Erin Birt: Join us next week when we will cover more restorative divorce topics. You can head over to to get the podcast transcripts, follow us on social media, and even find more valuable family law information, all for your benefit. Get help today and work with us one on one. Contact us to set up a consultation or planning session to start rebuilding your life today. Enjoy this day and we'll see you next time.

Our Attorneys

  • Erin Birt

    Since 2003, Erin N. Birt, J.D., CADC has focused her practice on pa...

  • Tyler Birt

    Since 2007, Tyler Birt has been a legal assistant and bookkeeper fo...

  • Karen Hansel

    As Administrative Assistant at Birt Law, Karen’s involvement in dai...

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