Am I required to let me children’s mother call and text them during my scheduled visits? She says she has a legal right to do so.
I do not practice law in your state and therefore cannot provide you with specific information or procedures.
In Pennsylvania, where I am licensed to practice, there are two types of custody: physical custody and legal custody. The physical custody is the actual location of the children and where they reside. Legal custody is who has the right to make decisions about education, religion, and medical matters.
The physical custody schedule does not affect a parent’s right to make decisions pertaining to the children. In most jurisdictions, physical custody and legal custody are specifically addressed in the order of court. The “legal rights” of a parent differ from legal custody rights and the right to make decisions on behalf of a child. Therefore, a parent may have the right to contact a child via phone even if they do not have legal custody.
The first question is if you have a custody order setting forth telephone contact. If telephone contact is addressed in your order, you must comply with the terms set forth in the order until they are changed.
If there are limitations on the phone contact that the other side is not complying with, you may be able to seek relief through the court by presenting a motion to address this matter and ask that a provision be included in your custody order. If there is a provision in your custody order that does not limit phone contact but you believe it is in the best interest to limit contact, you may wish to consider filing a request to modify the custody order.
If there is not a provision in regards to phone contact, the court typically assumes that the parties can independently come to an agreement on the times and amount of phone contact. If this is not possible, the court can add provisions into an order or modify a provision in an order if deemed appropriate.
The court may require a hearing if there is a dispute as to telephone contact should be set forth in the order and/or if limitation on contact are appropriate and in the best interest of your child. The court may make this decision based on the past circumstances of your case. For example, if a party is able to prove that the other parent is negatively discussing them or the pending case, the court may limit the privacy and permit both parties to participate in the phone call.
I cannot provide you with legal advice so please consult an attorney licensed to practice law in your jurisdiction to obtain specific advice as to the laws in your state and how they impact your potential case.