Timesharing Apps Cause Concern as More Judges Start Requiring Their Usage
It may not surprise you that there are apps that you can use on your phones to help you manage your custody and visitation schedules with your ex. What may surprise you is that some judges are mandating that divorced couples use these apps in an attempt to reduce fighting and keep families out of court. However, while these apps can be helpful, many have tracking features that can make some users uncomfortable.
What the Apps Do
These apps allow for divorced couples to communicate through the app to coordinate pickups and drop offs. Some offer additional features, such as expense trackers, which can be handy when the court orders one parent or the other to pay certain expenses connected with custody or visitation. There are even language filters, which use AI to “clean up” hostile or aggressive language sent from one parent to another, or to make users think twice before sending hostile messages to the other parent.
Documents important to your custody arrangement can be uploaded for easy access. Users can archive prior conversations with the other parent, and communicate with the other parent using “check ins,” which allow the one parent to know when the other has arrived somewhere without the ability to track the other parent’s whereabouts.
A recent report highlights that these apps may have a downside to them, in that the data that they store is easily accessible to courts, and can be the subject of information subpoenas by the other parent in the event of an in-court dispute.
In fact, one app even has a special kit built into it, which will allow judges to order data directly from users’ phones that the app tracks. For example, if both parents have a dispute about whether one parent is chronically late dropping a child off to the other parent, the judge can access the app’s stored data, and find out immediately which parent was where and when.
Privacy experts are concerned that the app not only constitutes electronic monitoring by courts, but in cases when usage of the app is required, constitutes forced monitoring, something that it is doubtful family law courts would have the legal authority to do on their own.
Parents who have privacy concerns and refuse to use the app despite a judge’s orders, face contempt charges, or face losing custody or visitation time with children.
Apps are Growing in Popularity
At least one app says that it has 5,000 subscribers, who pay a monthly fee (the judge may order which party is responsible for paying the subscription fee). Judges are using the app—it is estimated that about 70% of the app’s usage, comes from being ordered by courts (although that does not mean that 70% of courts are monitoring the data the app collects).
Our Tampa child custody attorneys at the Pawlowski//Mastrilli Law Group can help you handle custody, timesharing and visitation problems that may arise. Contact us today for more information.