Dealing with Disparagement
Talking poorly about your child's other parent in front of them or to them can be harmful to them and detrimental to their relationship with that other parent. It can also lead to parental alienation and the court does not take it lightly. If you are on the other side it can frustrating, depressing, and infuriating.
What You Can Do:
- Ask for a non-disparagement clause to be included in your custody order. If you are litigating or plan to modify your custody order, you can ask for a non-disparagement cause to be included in your order. While it should go without saying that the other parent should not talk poorly about the other parent to their child, you may need to have this spelled out explicitly in your order if this has been an issue in your case. It the other parent continues to badmouth you to your child, it will make it that much easier to prove contempt of this clause and/or assist with a modification of custody in the future.
- Get Proof.
- Written Evidence. Text messages and emails that can be authenticated (proven to be from the person at a time and date and with context), can be very helpful. However, you have to think about what is in the message. Just because your child's mother says terrible things to you, does not necessarily means she says them to your son or in front of him.
- Video and Audio Evidence. It is very important to know the state and federal rules about recording third parties and obtaining consent/notice. If the person submits to it voluntarily, like leaving a voicemail which they know is being recorded or some forms of social media messages, it may indicate that they have implied consent. Know the rules, but these can be some of the strongest forms of evidence.
- Testimony from your child. If your child is old enough, a judge or master may interview your child to determine whether disparagement is occurring. Testimony from children is often done outside of the presence of both parents, though in some situations counsel may be present.
- Testimony from a third party. A third party may be able to testify about your child's parent disparaging you to them in front of your child.
- File for Contempt. Where there is language in a custody order that prevents parents from disparaging the other parent, the parent may be in contempt if they continue to do so. The parent being disparaged can file a petition of contempt against the other parent and ask for attorneys' fees and sanctions
- Requesting Modification. If the disparagement is so bad that it has been affecting the relationship of the child with the parent being disparaged, a modification of the custody order may be warranted before it leads to complete parental alienation. Of course, a modification can be done at any time for any number of reasons. You can speak to a lawyer about requesting a modification of custody or do it yourself.
- Attend Co-Parenting Classes/Therapy. When parties split or where a custody battle has made things ugly between the parties, co-parenting counseling can be very helpful. An objective third party can help mediate issues, assist the parties with how to speak with each other, and get the family back on track. Co-parenting counseling can also be made part of a custody order, with a judge also ordering how long the parties are to attend and who is to pay the cost.
Speak with an attorney licensed in your state about the facts specific to your case. This blog is for information purposes only and is not legal advice. There is also no intent to create any attorney-client relationship by way of this or any other post on this website.