If you and your ex will be co-parenting your child, it can be a difficult adjustment to be away from that child for longer than you’re used to – whether it’s overnight or days at a time. Even if you’re confident that your child is safe with your co-parent, you may still have concerns about what they’re doing and where they are. If you are not as confident in your child’s safety, those concerns may compound. But — do you have a right to track that information?
If you’re still working out your custody order and parenting plan, you can seek to include language requiring both parents to disclose specified information to each other when they have the child. Remember, it will likely need to be reciprocal. If you already have these agreements in place without this language, then your co-parent really doesn’t have to tell you anything as long as they aren’t taking the child out of state or whatever distance you agreed to in your parenting plan. Also understand that most times, the required information disclosures are limited to travel itineraries, addresses, and flight/train information, not a play-by-play of each restaurant, museum, or other individual location that your co-parent may be taking your child.
That doesn’t mean you don’t have a right to ask. Ideally, both of you will share a reasonable amount of information with one another.
Why tracking apps usually aren’t a good idea
Generally, tracking your child when s/he is with the other parent is not a good idea. First, certain methods of tracking (such as a tracking device placed on a car) are illegal in many circumstances unless done by a specific professional in a specific way. Second, even if you’re considering using an alternate method of tracking, such as a tracking app on their phone or watch or placing an AirTag in their backpack, the odds are that either the child or co-parent will find it, or the child will inadvertently disclose it. That is guaranteed to heighten tensions, as that is going to feel like an invasion of privacy and a breach of trust to your co-parent. Your ex might even think you’re tracking them. Judges do not appreciate this conduct, either, and it can result in the judge ordering even fewer disclosures between the parents as a result of one parent’s extreme behavior.
If you believe that knowing where your child is, what they’re doing and whom they’re with during your co-parent’s time with them is in your child’s best interests but your co-parent isn’t agreeable to including it in your custody and parenting agreements, you’ll need to make your case to the court. With sound legal guidance, you can determine what’s best for your child and more successfully make your case. Remember also that there may be alternate, more appropriate ways, to get the information you want for court without directly tracking your child. Consult a lawyer to determine your best path forward.