DennisBeaverMarch 11, 2017 • By Dennis Beaver

Should a non-custodial parent be allowed to remotely monitor the environment – temperature and humidity – inside the children’s home? Would a judge order the installation of an internet-connected thermostat, enabling, under certain conditions, the temperature to be raised or lowered?

We’ll have answers in a moment, but first, here’s an example of how being able to do those things proved to be critical to Larry Meadow’s 92-year-old mother-in-law, Virginia.

Larry and his wife reside in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, 1300 miles from Lakeland, Florida, where Virginia lives. In July 2016, on one of the warmest days of the year – with Central Florida’s usual high humidity — he was alerted to mom facing a significant health risk.

No one phoned him, yet he knew that unless something occurred immediately, she was facing a risk of dehydration and possibly heat stroke. The air-conditioning system had either been turned off, or failed, as her home’s temperature and humidity were rising at an alarming rate.

But how could he know this?

“We placed sensors in each room at mom’s house, which were connected to MyAcuRite Smart Home Monitoring network and was programmed to send an alert to our cell phones if:

1. Temperature or humidity in any room went beyond our defined comfort limits;

2. Other nearby weather-related hazards were actually occurring;

3. Weather alerts or forecasts mentioned a threat to life or property in her general area.”

After receiving the alert that the indoor temperature was well above 80, Larry next, “Looked at the app on my cell phone for her internet-connected thermostat, and seeing that it was turned off, I turned it back on.”

By knowing the environment in his mother-in-law’s home, combined with the ability to remotely access her thermostat, he prevented what could have been a tragedy.

“This was our first, very personal experience with the impact of a personal weather station on the health and safety of our own family,” he told You and the Law.

His comments were all the more interesting considering that Larry is Director of Platform Solutions at AcuRite.
“Mommy keeps it too hot in summer and we freeze in winter”

“After our divorce, my wife moved from Fairfield to Chicago with our four children, 3 to 15 years old. The kids have complained to me that in summer the house is over 85, horribly humid, but in winter, they have to wear coats and gloves while inside!,” “Elliott” said. 

“I pay spousal and child support, so she can pay the utility bills. She tells me, ‘I’m just being frugal and it’s none of your business.’ This is not healthy or fair to the kids. Would a court require the installation of an internet-connected thermostat allowing me to remotely monitor temperature, humidity, and make adjustments if conditions were outside what is usually considered as the comfort zone?” he asked.

Reasonable Request?

We ran this interesting question by two family law attorneys, Hanford-based Jeff Levinson, and my pal from Loyola Law School, Certified Family Law Specialist in Seal Beach, Glen Rabenn.

Both agreed that most courts would not issue such an order.

“Unless you can establish that the children’s health is at risk, courts will not issue an order regulating mom’s conduct as to heating and cooling,” Levinson points out, and cautions, “Children can be highly manipulative. Once seeing an opening, they will play parents off against each other, looking for ways to run the show.”

He recommends that dad, “Have the kids for the summer and tell them to bundle up, at home, in the winter. This issue does not require judicial intervention.”

Ask for a change in custody

Agreeing with Levinson, Rabenn finds that, “Unless you have real health issues or Children’s Protective Services involved, Family Court judges do not tell people how to live.

“I doubt a judge would grant the order, as it would amount to micro-managing what goes on at home. What if the kids say, ‘We are getting bad food.’ Judges do not want to virtually go inside homes and dictate how to live.

“Dennis, if your reader believes it is in the best interests of the children, he can ask a court for a change of custody, or alternatively, remote monitoring and ability to control the thermostat. That’s the more sound approach.

“Children exaggerate and manipulate. You can be sure about that. Kids will tell one thing to mom and another to dad as they think they know what their parents want to hear,” Rabenn concluded.

We will revisit personal weather stations in a future article, looking at who should not rely on them.

Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.