Reasonable Phone Contact

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What is Reasonable Phone Contact for a Non-Custodial Parent?

When parents separate or divorce, one of the most important issues to resolve is a parenting plan for any minor children involved. This plan will typically outline custody arrangements, decision-making responsibilities, and schedules for parenting time and contact with the children.

One key element of many parenting plans is determining reasonable phone contact between the children and the non-custodial parent. This allows the non-custodial parent to remain actively involved in their children’s lives through regular communication. However, deciding on the right amount and means of phone contact can often be a source of conflict between separated parents.

In this blog post, we’ll explore some guidelines and best practices for establishing reasonable phone contact for non-custodial parents.

Table of Contents

Defining Reasonable Contact

There is no one-size-fits-all definition of “reasonable” when it comes to phone contact between a non-custodial parent and their children. What constitutes reasonable contact depends on factors like:

  • The age and maturity level of the children
  • The relationship between the non-custodial parent and children
  • Any special needs or circumstances of the children
  • The distance between households and ability to see each other in person
  • Individual family dynamics and history
  • Input from the children on their preferences

In general, frequent and regular contact is encouraged, as ongoing communication helps maintain the parent-child bond. Contact should be age-appropriate and reasonably fit into the children’s routines and activities.

Recommended Frequency of Contact

For non-custodial parents of babies and toddlers, daily phone contact is often reasonable, such as a goodnight call. As children grow into school-age and become involved in more activities, the frequency may decrease to a few times per week.

Here are some general recommendations on reasonable frequency of phone contact based on age:

  • Ages 0-2: Daily short contacts.
  • Ages 3-5: Daily to several times per week.
  • Ages 6-9: At least 2-3 times per week.
  • Ages 10-12: Once or twice per week.
  • Teens: Once per week or as desired by teen.

The frequency should provide meaningful interaction while also accommodating the children’s schedules and not disrupting custodial time. It’s important to remain flexible as children’s needs change.

Means of Communication

Phone contact can include phone calls, video chats, voice messages, and texting where age appropriate. When possible, video chat is great for maintaining a connection. Though quick check-ins by voice or text are also valuable.

Some guidelines on appropriate means of contact by age:

  • Ages 0-2: Primarily direct phone calls.
  • Ages 3-5: Direct phone calls and some video chats.
  • Ages 6-12: Direct contact plus messages and texting.
  • Teens: All forms of communication.

Having some guidelines and expectations around frequency and means of contact prevents confusion and conflict. But again, some flexibility based on evolving needs is reasonable.

Duration of Calls/Chats

In addition to frequency, the duration of individual phone calls and chats should also be reasonable. This may vary based on the children’s ages and attention spans. Here are some typical recommended time limits:

  • Toddlers: 10-15 minutes
  • Preschoolers: 15-20 minutes
  • School-age: 20-30 minutes
  • Teens: 30-45 minutes

Of course, conversations may be longer if the child is engaged and interested in talking. The main goal is meaningful interaction, not rigid time limits.

Times of Contact

When scheduling phone contact, reasonable times that work within the children’s routines should be chosen. For example:

  • Morning or mid-day on weekends
  • After school/before dinner on weekdays
  • Before bedtime

Avoid contacting children during meals, school, or extracurricular activities. Be mindful of time zones if applicable. Consistent times help children anticipate and engage in the contact.

Developmental Considerations

It’s important to consider a child’s developmental stage and abilities when determining reasonable contact. Here are some key factors for different ages:


  • Very short, more frequent contacts are best.
  • Mostly one-way communication through talking/singing.
  • Can engage with faces and noises on video chat.


  • Can engage in longer, two-way phone conversations.
  • Video chats help maintain familiarity.
  • May need parental support for calls.
  • Prone to distraction – keep interactions lively & focused.


  • Able to independently communicate by phone.
  • Can describe events, activities, feelings.
  • Video chat provides interactive face time.
  • Can text or leave voice messages.


  • Desire more privacy and independence.
  • Prefer texting or social media contact.
  • Need open channels of communication.
  • Don’t require extensive monitoring or time limits.

Adjusting contact modes and duration based on developing skills and needs is critical over time.

Best Practices for Positive Contact

To make the most of phone contact, non-custodial parents should:

  • Have a dedicated, distraction-free time to connect.
  • Actively listen and allow the child to share openly.
  • Ask engaging questions about their interests & activities.
  • Share your own updates, memories, hopes, encouragement.
  • Limit criticisms of the other parent.
  • End on a positive note; don’t rush.
  • Follow up if contact is missed.
  • Show flexibility around the child’s needs.

By making contact meaningful and keeping it drama-free, non-custodial parents can stay involved despite distance.

Mediation Tips for Parents

Agreeing to reasonable phone contact guidelines can be difficult between estranged co-parents. Professional divorce mediation services can assist with the process. Here are some tips:

  • Compromise – no one gets everything.
  • Trade-offs – alternate holidays/events annually.
  • Consider counselor suggestions.
  • Look forward, not backward.
  • Prioritize child wellness.
  • Adjust as needed.
  • Clarify specifics around schedule, length, modes.
  • Use mediation before court.

Seeking neutral guidance is wise when tensions run high and negotiations stall. The mediator can find middle ground focusing on the benefits to children.

Protecting Child Interests

In any contested divorce, it’s vital to protect children from becoming pawns or prisoners of the process. Some ways to shield children include:

  • Keeping arguments and logistics away from them.
  • Never using kids as messengers.
  • Not burdening kids with adult issues.
  • Listening to their concerns and preferences.
  • Speaking respectfully about the other parent.
  • Making transitions low-stress.
  • Maintaining routines, rules, expectations.

With patience and maturity, parents can reduce disruption and maintain childhood normalcy even through major life changes.

Keeping Contact Positive

For non-custodial parents, losing physical proximity to their children can be devastating. Leveraging phone contact maintains bonds and involvement that benefit kids emotionally and developmentally. By staying flexible, child-focused, respectful and engaged, parents turn phone time into meaningful connection. When both parents collaborate to provide reasonable contact on behalf of the children’s best interests, this key element of a parenting plan pays off in positive ways for the whole family.

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