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Appeals Court Rules that Mom Can’t Limit Cell Phone Use For Son Contacting Dad

As a rule, courts don’t tell parents how they can or cannot discipline their children, even when divorced parents differ on the correct form of discipline. However, there are exceptions to every rule. Recently, a Superior Court Appeals Division panel agreed with a lower Monmouth County court in barring a mom from blocking numbers in her children’s phones—when that number belonged to the children’s father.

Kenneth and Gina Caitano have been battling in court for years, with a final divorce decree entered in 2010, followed by many motions over how to parent their two children and how to handle financial issues since that time. Kenneth had previously requested a change in custody in 2013 over concerns that his son was unsafe due to being left alone too long, but that request was denied, and Kenneth was instructed to contact Child Protective Services with concerns over his children’s safety. Kenneth filed another motion for a change in custody and hearing on his children’s well-being in January of 2014 on the grounds that his ex-wife had interfered with his ability to speak with his children. This matter was recently resolved in the decision of Caitano v. Caitano.

According to the facts of the case, Kenneth had given each of his children cell phones, and paid for their cell service plans and phone insurance. In August of 2013, Kenneth’s son told Kenneth that he had lost his cell phone at his mother’s house. Kenneth planned to use the insurance policy on the phone to replace it, but before he could do so, Gina bought new phones for the children in September of 2013, on her own service plan. The son had told Kenneth that Kenneth’s phone number was blocked in his phone, and would be for the next five months.

Kenneth filed the January 2014 motion requesting that Gina reimburse Kenneth for the phone he alleged that she took, as well as the cost of the phone for the months he continued to pay after the phone had disappeared, along with attorneys’ fees and sanctions. The court agreed that Kenneth would be entitled to reimbursement if he could prove that Gina stole the phone, but found that Kenneth had no evidence of this fact and denied his request for reimbursement. The court did agree that Gina was not permitted to block Kenneth’s phone number, however. While parents are permitted to discipline their children without court intervention, Gina admitted that she had blocked Kenneth’s phone number for reasons not related to discipline. The court ordered that Gina remove any blocks and that she maintain a land line phone in her home, as well, for Kenneth to call to reach his children. However, despite winning on the issue of having phone contact with his children restored, since Kenneth’s motion was largely based on motions the court had previously denied or that lacked merit, the court denied Kenneth any attorneys’ fees.

If you have ever been forced to go to court on custody matters, you know how expensive, stressful, and time-consuming it can be. Consult a New Jersey child custody and family law attorney who will provide aggressive representation, while also seeking to keep costs and fees reasonable and emotions in check. Contact the Englewood family law attorneys at Herbert & Weiss for a consultation on your family law claims, at (201) 500-2151.