"Why? Because I said so ..."
"Kids these days ..."
"Back in my day ..."
"I'm the parent, I make the rules ..."
Fill in the cliché of your choice. Chances are you've heard them all as a child or uttered them all as a parent. These parental sayings are as American as baseball and apple pie. But times are changing and the balance of power is tilting toward children in the eternal struggle of child vs. parent.
Cellphones Are One Of The Main Catalysts.
Michigan statute MCL 750.540 has thrown a wrench in the ability of parents to monitor what their kids are up to on their cellphones and even forbids parents from taking their phones away. That means no more using cellphone access or the threat of no cellphone as a punishment or behavior modifier. That means parents who actually use the tools available to them as parents could find themselves convicted of a felony that can result in two to four years of prison time.
"You're Kidding, Right?"
The statute - passed in 2006 - forbids tampering with computers, cellphones and other electronic devices. This includes taking a cellphone away from your child because it can be considered a "disruption of 911 service." This is a classic example of a statute that has had unintended consequences as technology has become more available to minor children.
At Schwartz Law Firm, we have been monitoring this closely due to the effect it can have on family law cases such as divorces and custody disputes. We have heard of cases where children have been removed from their homes as a result of their parents violating this statute.
What Can You Do?
Hopefully, the Legislature will come to its senses and clarify this statute to prevent parents from being handcuffed - literally. But we wouldn't recommend you holding your breath waiting for that to happen.
Until then, you still have rights as a parent. And your child does not have the right to possess a cellphone. If your children are asking you to provide them with cellphones, just say no. Or, if you would like your children to have a means of getting in touch with you in an emergency, provide them with pay-as-you-go phones, adding minutes only when you decide it is necessary.
Does Your Child Already Have A Phone?
Don't overlook how important it is to talk to your children and set expectations surrounding cellphone use. Make sure they understand what your rules are and why you have them. Make them aware of your concerns and make an effort to get on the same page so you are less likely to need to take their phones away and risk the wrath of MCL 750.540.
Don't Have Children? You're Still Not Off The Hook.
If you are getting a divorce, it is extremely tempting to pick up your spouse's phone or look at documents on his or her computer.
DON'T DO IT.
This will not end well for you. Monitoring a spouse's electronic devices during divorce proceedings could result in charges under the same statute. Having any criminal record could make it harder for you to prevail in your divorce.
Let Us Help You Protect Your Rights
Even mistakes made for the right reasons can result in long-term consequences. To learn more about the do's and don'ts of parenting and divorce from an experienced family law attorney, get in touch with us at Schwartz Law Firm. We can help you avoid making mistakes that will hurt your case and put you in the best position to achieve the outcome that is best for you and your children.