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Tracking Apps, Joint Custody and Privacy Issues

Maggio law firm, California family law attorney, California divorce attorney, California stepparent child custody, child custody in California, California child custody, joint custody and privacy, tracking apps and co-parenting

When you have joint physical custody of your child with your ex, there are a number of difficulties that you may plan on dealing with – scheduling conflicts, disagreements regarding holidays and vacations, miscommunications regarding after school care, etc. One issue that is becoming more and more common for co-parents is the privacy issue that comes when a custodial parent uses a gps tracking app on their child’s phone without the other parent’s knowledge.

Is Using a GPS Tracking App or Device a Violation of the Other Parent’s Privacy?

Consider this scenario that has become fairly common in today’s society. Ginger’s boyfriend has his daughter every other weekend. While the child isn’t old enough to have her own smartphone, her mother is fairly tech savvy and also feels that preventive measures are the best way to keep her daughter safe. Therefore, she purchased a gps tracking app and places it in her daughter’s overnight bag when she goes to her father’s house for the weekend. When Ginger discovered the gps tracking device in the bag, she was very disturbed. The mother assured her when asked that the gps device was for the child’s safety, but Ginger feels her privacy is being unfairly invaded. Even if the mother’s intent is to protect the child’s safety, does she have the right to deliver her daughter for a visit with a gps tracking device without advising the other parent or the other parent’s significant other? Is it an invasion of privacy or is it a reasonable precaution on the mother’s part?

As children get older, they start to carry smartphones. In fact, the age at which the average child starts to carry a smartphone continues to get lower. This means that a significant number of children who have co-parenting parents are carrying around smartphones that basically come hardwired with a number of different tracking applications. Some parents see this as an invasion of their privacy as they are being “watched” or monitored on their parenting time. Yet the standard nature of tracking devices on phones and the public nature of many location features on various social media platforms leaves any sort of control of this issue getting further and further out of reach.

And the evolution of the issue does not stop there. Did you know that legally mandated app usage is officially now a thing? In early 2019, the coParenter app was released. It was designed to facilitate the often-fraught dealings of two non-married or separated individuals who are attempting to raise a child jointly. The app promises to save parents money and keep them out of court. It also collects reams of data (and clearly advises in privacy policies that it will do so). This data can include anything from heated text exchanges to location data. Usage of this app is actually being court mandated in some cases forcing users to choose between two difficult options: provide a judge with on-demand access to location and messaging info or defy the judge’s order and risk damaging chances for custody or visitation. The story of divorced parents, joint custody, location apps and privacy is nowhere near over. In fact, we can expect to start hearing more about it as this app, and others like it become more and more common.

If you are worried about your privacy during and after divorce it is important that you take your concerns into consideration during the divorce. Get in touch with one of the experienced California family law attorneys at The Maggio Law Firm today so we can discuss the details of your situation and how best to prepare to preserve your privacy while offering the best custody argument to the court.

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