Monitoring Parent/Child Phone Calls

A subject that comes up in many of my cases has to do with one parent requiring a child to put the phone on speaker mode when talking to their other parent. I can’t think of a more obvious way to put your child literally in the middle of the co-parent conflict. I have a clause in my parenting coordination contract that lists rules I expect the parents to abide by and one of those is that they will not require the phone to be on speaker with a child. That’s how much I think it’s a bad idea. Unless a court order says that’s what you should do (and I’ve only seen one of those in my career), there is no good argument for it. One child told me he is required to have the call on speaker mode in both houses. When I asked him how that felt, he aptly reported it feels like “the enemy is calling.” Not his enemy, but each of theirs’. What an image. If the enemy is calling, how do I speak to the enemy without being disloyal to the one I am with? And what if I say the wrong things and cause another war?

Please allow your child the freedom to have private calls, in a private space, with his other parent. I’m aware that parents who do this have good defensive reasons to justify this requirement, but you can’t control what is said to the child in the privacy of the other parent’s home, so what good is it to try to control what is said to your child when he/she is with you? There is no productive value in it for the child. I feel the same way about monitoring texting between a parent and child. The only thing it accomplishes is a negative chilling effect on the parent/child relationship (on both sides). If your child is required to be on speaker while they are talking to you, make sure you don’t require that in your home, so the child at least has one parent who understands their dilemma. Also, let your child off the hook and tell him you understand how hard it must be to talk to you under those circumstances, and offer to keep the calls simple and brief. Let your child know you will not be hurt if they don’t feel like talking, and they can respectfully end the call with you if that is the case. Sadly, your child may feel he has to disrespect you in front of the other parent just to be accepted by that parent! This is very complicated for kids. In some instances, it might even be appropriate to offer to not use the telephone at all because it’s just that tough on them.

Is it right or fair? No. Can you file a contempt for it? Maybe. But court can only do so much, so just take the child out of the middle by being the one parent who can see it from the child’s point of view. This isn’t about winning something for yourself. It’s really about your child being able to win what might feel like a normal childhood.