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What does "open telephonic access" mean?

losingmyhair's picture

DH and BM have joint custody of Skid, but DH is the custodial parent. The final settlement was reached within the past year after a long, stressful custody fight and an 11th hour settlement. There is more, but this will be long enough. Suffice it to say that DH is hardworking and responsible and BM is EXTREMELY irrational and manipulative. She is also extremely jealous of me, though that in itself is irrational. She cheated on DH and asked for a divorce long before I was in the picture.

All the physical visitation is spelled out really clearly.

In addition to the physical access, BM is to have "open telephonic access" with no interference.

DH didn't see a problem with this; after all, who wants to limit phone calls between a parent and child?

However (you knew there'd be one), BM is really abusing this and using the telephone to undermine Skid's adjustment. She has Skid convinced that this is just a temporary home, that she will sue us for custody at some point and that this is just a place Skid has to put up with. Skid is therefore making no effort to adjust.

Skid has a personal phone from us, but it has no texting. Skid has had trouble meeting responsibilities as it is and doesn't need the distractions right now, plus, BM pays no child support and we NEED, not want, to keep our costs down.

BM has given Skid a smart phone and texts daily. This wouldn't be a problem if BM weren't crazy. She is using texting as a means to keep Skid occupied with her when Skid would otherwise be engaging with the other members of the household. She is clearly using the texts to manipulate Skid's emotions, but we do not have proof because Skid is deleting all the texts.

And yes, we looked for them. We told Skid when Skid moved in that Skid had a "reasonable expectation of privacy" in this house, and that "reasonable" meant that as long as Skid was trustworthy and gave us no reason to worry, Skid would have privacy. If not, all bets were off. Skid has a really sketchy relationship with the truth (actually, Skid lies like a rug), has very negative attention-seeking behavior, and has demonstrated some other serious emotional issues and behavioral problems. (Yes, Skid is in therapy - but it is slow going and Skid is not opening up.)

We know from experience that BM asks Skid leading questions. BM has been emailing my husband with all sorts of horrible accusations about every member of our family except Skid (mostly me), saying Skid told her this, that, and the other really horrible and untrue thing. We think that BM is probably asking Skid really leading questions to kind of manufacture the answer she wants out of the responses. We also think Skid is gaming the system and embellishing events or just flat-out lying to BM for sympathy.

Skid was having trouble adjusting but was making progress, but since the texting has been truly, frighteningly disruptive. Not only telling lies, but telling outrageous lies about other members of the household. This behavior is escalating, and I'm truly afraid that Skid will do harm to one of the children or make horrible, life ruining accusations about one of us. The other night, Skid had a physical tantrum and began to beat poor DH will full strength.

DH, of course, did not do anything in return other than to stand in one place and, when he could, hold Skid's arms to prevent the blows from making contact. I was about thirty seconds away from calling the police when Skid ceased the physical abuse.

Skid is clearly very angry and wants to live with BM. Skid will never live with BM. Ever. Not because of spite or anger or what-have-you, but because we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that BM earns her living from illegal activity. We have a mountain of evidence.

BM does not know we have this evidence; there was a settlement, so the custody case never went to trial, but if we ever go back to court, it will be presented. Skid does not know about BM's illegal activity, nor do we think Skid should.

BM clearly bought Skid this phone so that she could be a disruptive influence. (How a person can hate her ex more than she loves her child is beyond me, but there you go.)

Must we continue to let Skid use this phone? Must we continue to let Skid text? Or has my DH met his legal obligations as long as we provide a number at which Skid can be called and no one interrupts Skid's private phone calls with BM?

Thanks for any advice.

oneoffour's picture

Hide the phone. Reasonable access does not mean 24/7. Nor does it mean the boy texts his mother all day which is telephonic access. Which makes her behaviour VERY unreasonable.

How old is this boy?

One thing I would do would be to send her a certified letter explaining if she does not stop this constant interruption in her sons life making his adjustment very difficult you will have her phone contact limited to a land line phone and 1 call a day for 15 minutes as this is the standard. Also you will make information available to the police.

And lose his phone or charging unit. If he throws a fit he can ask his mother for a new one. He is just finding it VERY difficult to adjust when he is constantly in touch with his mother. Does he visit her at all?

losingmyhair's picture

Yes, it definitely says "open." What we're really wondering is if "open" means "must be on her phone" and if "telephonic" includes text messaging. Not too very long ago, texting wouldn't have been a consideration, and we're wondering if the new forms of electronic access available with smart phones are the same conceptually as telephonic access.

losingmyhair's picture

Oh, yeah, Skid definitely visits.

BM doesn't "work" on weekends Skid visits; this we know.

She spoils Skid with expensive outings and gifts, but doesn't pay child support. She doesn't go to school events (and yes, is close enough), check homework, and do any of the actual work that comes with being a parent, but she's a lot of fun - and Skid is so desperate for true affection from her that the crumbs of her efforts come off looking like a banquet.

caregiver1127's picture

Take the phone away give it back to BM and tell her that you have a phone and that is the one she uses - end of story - it is your house your rules - that's it - you have the advantage in that skid is living with you - enforce your rules - just because she has phone access it does not give her the right to take away from time with your family - give back the phone and say thanks but no thanks.

You two need to be the parents and set the rules, limitations and boundaries if BM has a problem ask her what judge after seeing the phone records because tell her you are going to subpeona the phone records and that texts are forever and ask if if the judge would like all the time and texts that are being sent.

losingmyhair's picture

Skid is 13.

We don't allow the texting before Skid is getting ready for school, during homework, or during dinner - but I don't think it's taking a lot of time for BM to text throughout the day and "commiserate" about how "cruel" we are or whatever is happening.

We don't mind actual phone calls - but we think the simplicity of texting is actually working against all our efforts. After all, a conversation takes really effort and a true commitment of time, and hopefully, and ex wouldn't spend all their time bitching about the custodial parent and his/her family (though we know it does happen, and yeah, probably would happen in this case, too).

Texting is different. It provides quick and dirty opportunities for snark and suggestion. And we have no way to know or control what's happening.

Just to recap, Skid DOES have phone that we provided. No one is trying to prevent BM from calling.

We're really curious about whether or not providing a phone meets our obligations, or if we are legally obligated to let Skid use this phone from BM. The texting, even outside of mealtimes and school, is wrecking all our efforts.

EDIT: Oh, I meant to also say thank you for taking the time to respond. Sorry I left that out. Smile

Rags's picture

Open telephonic access is open to interpretation and the only one who can interpret is the CP. DH is the CP so it can mean what ever he decides that it means.

For sure I would implement a policy that all minors deposit their cell phones in the cell phone basket when the enter the house and do not use cell phones while at home.

A cell phone is a communication tool and not a toy. As the CP your DH can stipulate when cell phones can be used by the children he is the CP of.

We even had to put limits on our son (my SS-18) since he is averaging 1300 texts a month and countless Skype hours at all hours of the night. So, when we get home his cell goes off. No cell phones at dinner and no texting during family time.

Preventing interference with family time is not interfering with “Open Telephonic Access”.

BM is using the phone as a PAS tool.

All IMHO of course.

Good luck.

losingmyhair's picture

Unfortunately, not good right now. The last thing completely wiped us out. Unrelated, but I'm pretty sure BM is encouraging the child's malingering just to run up our expenses with all the co-pays. If DH makes the call that something is clearly a minor issue that is being overexaggerated (or a nonissue that is fabricated), BM flips out about how she's supposed to be included in that decision and she disagrees. She's always emailing with physical disorders that she suspects are wrong with Skid.

She's supposed to pay half of copays, but it isn't worth the effort to make her. And she knows it. And if she had to be cooperative, she would - because causing us the stress would be worth the money. Especially since she isn't under an order to pay child support. (DH didn't even ask for it - just wanted to get custody and get the mess over with.)

losingmyhair's picture

Thanks; I believe you are right.

I just asked the question on one of those legal forums where you pay for the answer - of course, the disclaimer says the answer "is not legal advice," but the questions are all answered by family law attorneys. So I feel pretty confidant that this is the answer.


Tx mommy of 3's picture

Who pays for the phone she gave him and for all those texts? If you are paying, then yes you can out a limit and enforce whatever rules. If she is paying, I say cancel the other phone you bought him because you don't need to pay for something he isn't using. I think open access means that- open, unlimited phone access- calls or texts. However, owning a phone is a privledge and privledge can be taken away. In order to keep his phone set standards (grades must be kept up, chores must be done, etc). If je doesn't follow those rules then no cell phone. Bm can call on the home number to talk to him. That way you aren't denying access to her. I also think dh needs to hav a talk with this kid and explain the situation- that no, this is not a temporary situation, the judge ordered him to live with dad and until the judge says differently (and that will be a loooooong time from now, if ever), then this is his home. Dad needs to stress that is his PERMANANT home and he can explain the situation without bad mouthing bm or filling him in on her illegal activities. Dad also needs to set the rules and standards of the house and explain it all to his son. This is when dh can set rules regarding the cell phone too. As long as the boy thinks his is temporary he'll continue to hang on to his mom. He needs to realize things aren't changing so he can eventually let go of mom a little.