Divorce separates two individuals in the union of marriage and divides many aspects of their lives. One of those aspects that affect everyone’s day-to-day life is their phones. The reliance on cell phones has skyrocketed over the last decade, with nine in 10 Americans owning a cell phone, according to the Pew Research Center. Two thirds of those cell phones are smart phones. Furthermore, there are almost 43 percent of adults living in cell phone-only households with no landline.
These statistics illustrate the growing use of cell phones in modern society. They are a source of both connection and distraction, and given society’s need for consuming information and having everyone at their beckon at the click of a button, the statistics are not saying anything new.
Given the necessity that phone and internet usage has become as a utility for modern survival, the need for maintaining one in times of uncertainty like during a divorce creates a whole new set of questions, regarding cell phone usage, maintenance, payment plans, data plans, etc.
When the call (a marriage) drops (a divorce), you’re left in call-waiting (the process). For some couples who may or may not even be married, trying to separate while attached via cell phone plan can be an impossible task. Some cannot even afford to separate their plans, due to financial strains. For other couples, it is entirely dependent on the individual carrier of their plan.
With the number of carriers out there, it is no wonder that each carrier has different methods of handling divorces. Unfortunately, these carriers also come with their own set of problems.
For Verizon Wireless, they have told their users going through a divorce to have the user whose name is not on the account, to perform an assumption of liability on the line the ex-spouse in question is taking over.
However, as of 2015, active Edge plans, plans involving phones like the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge, are unable to be assumed by another spouse. It would require the ex-spouse with their name on the account to pay off the remaining balance on the phone and then move the line. The only other option would be to transfer the line into a sub-account and split the billing into two invoices.
For Sprint, there is an issue regarding account name on the billing. The name on the billing address must match up with the one on the account information, which means that if you have changed your name during your marriage and plan on changing it back, you need to submit the divorce decree and the legal document for the name change, along with a Sprint form.
There also is an issue with the change of ownership, in order to split the two lines. Before a change of ownership request can be submitted, both the account holder and the ex-spouse whose name is not on the account, must have active Sprint accounts.
If they don’t, they need to establish and register the account, followed by registering both accounts with the account number on the previously established account. Then, the releasing party will fill out and submit the change of ownership online request form. The acceptor needs to complete the form within five days.
For T-Mobile, it’s a lot more complicated. The word ‘divorce’ isn’t even available when you search it with the search bar on their website. Regardless, the ex-spouse whose name is on the account will no longer have access to My T-Mobile and My Account usage records, once the transfer is complete. Additionally, the account will have to be current and in order, with all past due charges, current charges, and equipment installment plan charges taken care of. In order to transfer equipment installment plan charges, the T-Mobile Customer Service department can help take care of that. If the account has a JUMP! lease, which allows for upgrades on demand, and the account is cancelled, the remaining lease balance, purchase option price, and taxes will be charge to the final bill. Any and all charges associated with the lease will remain the responsibility of the account holder.
For the person with the new account, you are seen as someone taking the existing account, which will require you to undergo a credit check and possibly making a deposit. It will also require you to agree to the service agreement and choose a plan, as if it were a new phone. Then, you have to bring the phone in or buy a new one, which could make you eligible for the equipment installment plan.
The person with the new account needs to understand that their billing method will be their Bill Current method and that they will be responsible for the account and charges on and after the date of the ownership transfer. They also will need to speak to the activation team within 30 days after the ownership transfer to complete the change of responsibility.
For AT&T, they have a variety of options that one can choose, in order to modify the account. For an ex-spouse changing their last name, AT&T needs to be contacted to change the name on the bill. Similarly, the primary and billing addresses need to be updated.
One of their suggestions is to transfer billing responsibility, which is detailed in an instructional video. The other suggestion they give is to either cancel wireless service or remove a line from the account. Before beginning this process, they ask you to find out if an early termination fee will apply. Then, you have to pay the remaining unpaid installment balance on the installment agreement. They then, ask you to call AT&T to cancel the rest of it.
Lack of simplicity
These providers do not properly detail a simple procedure, because they don’t want divorces to occur. That means less households and less lines for them, but the logic is flawed. If you were a phone provider, wouldn’t you want more contracts, more accounts, more data plans, more hidden fees, more room for overages on a single line?
We, as a society, have made peace with the need to have a cell phone. We need to be able to connect with the world, and those that wish to disconnect from one another through divorce are no different. They need to be able to reach those that are supporting them during this difficult time in their lives without having to deal with having their ex-spouse on their cell phone plan. Providers need to recognize the need for simplicity in their divorce procedures, as a better way of servicing their customers who already are dealing with enough issues.
Dan Pearce is an Online Editor for Lexicon, focusing on subjects related to the legal services of customers, Cordell & Cordell and Cordell Planning Partners. He has written countless pieces on MensDivorce.com, detailing the plight of men and fathers going through the divorce experience, as well as the issues seniors and their families experience throughout the estate planning journey on ElderCareLaw.com. Mr. Pearce has managed websites and helped create content, such as the Men’s Divorce Newsletter and the YouTube series, “Men’s Divorce Countdown.” He also has been a contributor on both the Men’s Divorce Podcast and ElderTalk with TuckerAllen.
Mr. Pearce assisted in fostering a Cordell Planning Partners practice area specific for Veterans, as they deal with the intricacies of their benefits while planning for the future. He also helped create the Cordell Planning Partners Resource Guide and the Cordell Planning Partners Guide to Alternative Residence Options, specific for seniors with questions regarding their needs and living arrangements.