How to Update Your Mobile Phone Plan After Divorce

Getting a divorce is a huge endeavor, and as you move through the stages of your break-up, you don't want to leave any loose ends that could hold you back as you start your next chapter. This includes seemingly minor tasks like changing the details of your mobile phone plan. 

As a married couple, you probably shared a family phone plan to make it more cost-effective. After your divorce, however, you’ll want to update your phone plan to reflect your current life situation.

Separate lives, separate phone plans

For financial reasons, you may feel daunted by the prospect of changing your phone plan after divorce. Many couples share a phone plan to save money. Changing this arrangement may not seem feasible if you’re facing financial difficulties. You might even feel tempted to continue sharing a phone plan with your ex-spouse to save money.

But look closely at what’s available. There are pay-as-you-go plans and prepaid plans that might save you money. There are discounts available for students, seniors, military members, and employees of some companies and government agencies. A simple Google search for “how to save money on your smartphone bill” may be all that’s necessary to find something cheaper than what you had before.

What’s more, staying on the same phone plan as your ex can be a bit like living in the past when what you really need to do is move forward. Finding your own new phone plan – and perhaps your own new phone number – can help you focus on moving on. It’ll remind you that it’s time to build new connections and relationships outside of your former partner’s influence and control.

Common phone contract terms to understand

When signing or changing a mobile phone contract, there are various terms and conditions to be aware of to ensure you know what you're agreeing to. Here are some common terms you might encounter and what they refer to:

Contract length

  • Term/duration: The time period you are committed to the contract (typically 12, 24, or 36 months).
  • Early termination fee: What you can be charged if you end the contract early.

Plan details

  • Data allowance: The amount of mobile data you can use per billing cycle without additional fees.
  • Minutes and texts: The number of call minutes and text messages included.
  • Unlimited plans: Many plans offer unlimited data, calls, and texts but may have fair usage policies (such as within your country/not roaming).

Monthly charges

  • Base monthly fee: The cost you pay each month for the plan (can vary slightly).
  • Additional charges: Fees for exceeding your plan’s limits.
  • International charges: Costs for “roaming” or using your phone outside of your home country.

Device costs

  • Upfront cost: What you pay for the phone when signing the new contract.
  • Monthly device payment: The cost of the phone it it’s spread out over the contract term; often added to the base monthly fee.

Upgrades and renewals

  • Upgrade eligibility: Terms if under some circumstances you can get a new phone before your current contract ends.
  • Renewal conditions: Conditions for extending or renewing your contract after it expires.

Usage policies

  • Fair usage policy: Usually there are some limits on "unlimited" data, calls, or texts.
  • Data roaming: Terms and costs associated with using your phone abroad.

Service and support

  • Customer service: Availability and terms of how customers receive help.
  • Warranty and insurance: Coverage for device repairs or replacements.

Promotions and discounts

  • Promotional offers: Temporary discounts or benefits you can receive when signing the contract.
  • Bundle discounts: Savings when you combine multiple services (e.g., phone, internet, TV).

Additional fees

  • Activation fee: A one-time charge for setting up your service.
  • Late payment fee: Extra charges if you miss a payment.

Termination and cancellation

  • Cooling-off period: A short period (usually 14 days) after signing up for a new plan during which you can cancel without penalty.
  • Early exit penalties: Costs associated with terminating the contract early.

Potential challenges when changing your phone plan

Early termination penalties

An issue to consider is the type of contract or agreement you have with your current provider. You may run into complications if the terms of your plan are not clearly outlined or if there are fees and penalties you weren't aware of. For example, there may be an early termination fee for getting out of your contract due to your break-up. 

One solution would be to split the termination fee with your ex-spouse. If they’re not willing to share this cost with you, however, you might decide to pay it yourself. If you don’t break the contract and get yourself off the plan, your ex could potentially view your call history after you’re no longer married. 

Technical aspects of the change

Another challenge can be navigating the technical aspects of separating and closing accounts, especially if one partner has more familiarity with phones and other mobile devices than the other. It can be difficult to separate all of your accounts and cancel any automatic renewals without accidentally creating new charges or incurring cancellation fees.

Step-by-step process of separating a shared family phone plan

Separating a shared/family phone plan into individual plans requires multiple steps. Here’s what to do (Note: your plan steps may be slightly different):

Step 1: Review current contract

Review your current shared contract to understand any potential penalties for changing it or ending it early. You can try to negotiate out with a customer service representative, especially if you are going to stay with the carrier for your new plan(s).

Step 2: Assess each line’s usage and needs

Determine the data, call, and text usage for each line on the family plan. Based on this, you will know what type of plan each person needs (e.g., you just need a basic plan but your teenager needs a lot of data).

Step 3: Research individual plans

Look into individual plans from carriers with good service in the areas where you will primarily use your phone to find the best fit for each person’s needs. Search for any promotions or discounts for new customers (these might be in a special offers section of their website or you might need to seek out discount codes or offers). Visiting the carrier’s storefront is often the best way to receive a discount.

Step 4: Contact your current provider

Reach out to your current provider’s customer service team to discuss your desire to separate the family plan. Ask about the process for transferring lines and any associated costs.

Step 5: Back up important data

Ensure all important data, such as contacts, photos, and messages, are backed up from each phone.

Step 6: Transfer or port numbers

Get the necessary account number and PIN (if required) from your current provider to transfer or port each number. Contact the new provider to start the process of transferring or porting the numbers to the new individual plans.

Step 7: Activate new plan(s)

Follow the new provider’s instructions (or your current carrier’s instructions for new plans) to activate the new plans and ensure all features are working.

Step 8: Cancel or adjust the old family plan

Once all lines are successfully transferred, contact your original/current provider to cancel the family plan or adjust it if you are keeping any lines on it.

Step 9: Confirm billing changes

Check the final bill from your old provider to ensure there are no unexpected charges. Make sure the billing information is correctly set up for the new individual plans to avoid any missed payments.

Step 10: Notify relevant contacts

Notify friends, family, and important contacts of any changes in phone numbers, if applicable.

Tips for changing from a family to an individual or new family plan:

  • Coordinate the timing: Plan the changes to coincide with the end of the billing cycle to avoid partial month charges.
  • Understand possible fees: Be aware of any potential fees for early termination or transferring lines and decide who will pay for them.
  • Keep records: Maintain records of all communications and transactions with both the old and new providers.

By following these steps, you can smoothly transition from a shared family phone plan to individual plans while minimizing disruptions and unexpected costs.

Privacy and security tips

After a divorce, you probably don’t want your ex to access any of your phone activity or account details. Here are some tips to help protect you:

  1.  Change passwords and make them strong (and not easy for your ex to guess).
  2.  Enable Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) or use authenticator apps for added security.
  3.  Update contact information such as your mailing address and email.
  4.  Review account access and permissions. Remove any devices or apps linked to your accounts that you no longer use or recognize.
  5.  Monitor account activity on your phone bill for any unusual activity or charges that you don't recognize. Enable account activity alerts to get notified of any changes or suspicious activity.
  6.  Secure your phone with a lock screen, strong PIN, password, or biometric security (fingerprint, face recognition). Enable Find My Phone to track and remotely lock your phone if it’s lost or stolen.
  7.  Update personal information on your accounts and remove your ex-spouse’s details.
  8.  Unlink shared services from your family plan like streaming accounts, cloud storage, and other subscriptions.
  9.  Remove sensitive information and old backups from devices or accounts that your ex may still have access to.
  10.  You may want to notify your service provider about your change in marital status and ensure they understand that only you should have access to your account. If necessary, switch to a new phone plan that is solely under your name to ensure control over your account.
  11.  If there are concerns about safety or harassment, consider obtaining a restraining order that could prevent unauthorized access to your accounts.

Disconnecting other shared accounts after divorce

Mobile phone plans aren't the only accounts that need to be addressed after divorce. You'll also need to make sure your credit cards, health insurance, car insurance, asset titles, and even your recurring monthly expenses are changed to your name only. You don't want to be paying for your spouse's new expenses – and they don't want to be paying for yours. While tedious, these are necessary steps to make your transition to your new life better.

Comprehensive digital separation checklist

This checklist includes steps to secure your digital life and prevent unauthorized access to your accounts and information.

1. Account security

  • Change passwords. Use strong, unique passwords.
  • Enable Two-Factor Authentication or use an authenticator app.

2. Device security

  • Change lock screen passwords/PINs.
  • Review and remove linked devices.
  • Change passwords for cloud storage accounts (iCloud, Google Drive, Dropbox).

3. Communication privacy

  • Update contact information.
  • Change recovery email addresses and phone numbers on all accounts.
  • Update privacy settings on social media to limit who can see your information. Remove your ex-partner from friends/followers lists if necessary.
  • Check/disable any email forwarding set up to send your emails to your ex-partner.

4. Financial accounts

  • Change passwords for online banking and financial accounts. 
  • Remove your ex-partner’s access to joint accounts and set up individual accounts.
  • Regularly check your account history and statements for unauthorized activity.

5. Shared services and subscriptions

  • Review and cancel shared subscriptions.
  • Create new accounts for services you still need.

6. Social media and online presence (optional)

  • Change your relationship status.
  • Update profile pictures and bio.
  • Remove or archive posts and photos that include your ex.

7. Device access and permissions

  • Check and update permissions for apps on your devices to ensure they don’t have access to sensitive information.
  • Change Wi-Fi passwords.

8. Legal and official documentation

  • Ensure that your digital signature and access to legal documents are secure.
  • Update your contact information with banks, government institutions, and other relevant entities.

9. Personal and professional contacts

  • Inform your contacts of your new details and any changes in your digital presence.
  • Remove access to shared calendars, documents, and other collaborative tools.

10. Digital footprint

  • Search for your name online to identify and address any unwanted information related to your ex.
  • Use online tools to manage and clean up your digital presence.

By using this digital separation checklist, you can secure your personal information, protect your privacy, and move forward with greater peace of mind.

FAQ about shared digital plans after divorce

What should we do about shared streaming services like Netflix or Spotify?

Decide who will keep the existing account and who will set up a new one. Change the account password and update the payment information to reflect the person who will continue using the service.

How can we separate shared cloud storage?

Each of you should download and back up the files you need to keep. After ensuring all necessary data is saved, one person can create a new account, and the other can remove their access from the shared account.

How should we manage a joint email account we used for bills and subscriptions?

Decide who will take over the joint email account. The person retaining the account should change the password and update the security settings. The other person should create a new email account and update their contact information with relevant services.

How do we divide digital assets such as purchased music, e-books, and apps?

Since digital purchases are often tied to a specific account, decide who will keep the account with the purchased content. Consider compensating the other party if there is a significant amount of purchased content involved.

What should be done about shared smart home devices (e.g., Amazon Echo, Google Home)?

Decide who will keep the devices and update the account settings accordingly. The person keeping the devices should change the associated passwords and remove any access the ex-partner had.

At Hello Divorce, we strive to help couples with all aspects of divorce, from practical advice about updating utilities to more complex endeavors like filing for mediated divorce with your spouse. Click here to schedule your free 15-minute phone call to learn more about the helpful worksheets, downloads, plans, and services we offer.

Divorce Content Specialist & Lawyer
Divorce Strategy, Divorce Process, Legal Insights

Bryan is a non-practicing lawyer, HR consultant, and legal content writer. With nearly 20 years of experience in the legal field, he has a deep understanding of family and employment laws. His goal is to provide readers with clear and accessible information about the law, and to help people succeed by providing them with the knowledge and tools they need to navigate the legal landscape. Bryan lives in Orlando, Florida.