Badmouthing the Other Parent

What Happens When a Divorcing Parent Bad-Mouths the Other in Front of their Children?

Marriage is a contract between two people that can be ended simply by divorce at the time of their choosing, unless children are involved.  Children entangled in divorce reasonably cause the courts to proceed cautiously and with concern for their hearts and minds.  Accordingly, when a parent bad-mouths the other in front of the children, the legal system will step in to prevent this from reoccurring.

Dirty Tactics

Parents, previously concerned about their children’s well being, can suddenly lose all regard for the affect of their actions upon them during divorce.  Although there are many down and dirty tactics used in custody disputes, one of the most frequently used is a parent saying disparaging remarks about the other parent to the children. These remarks can create uncomfortable situations which negatively affect a child, including: anger toward one or both parents, belief in false information, not wanting to spend time with a parent or no longer feeling comfortable around a parent.

Bad-mouthing is often used as a tactic to not only hurt the other parent but to also push to get one’s way.  If a child hears negative remarks about a parent they may no longer want to visit them or may desire to live primarily with the other parent.  It may also occur because a parent may feel like they have no control of the situation with their children and the only thing they can control is what they say to them.

Legal Response – Parenting Plans

Knowing that many normally rational and sane adults can suddenly become irrational and insane during a divorce and a custody dispute, most courts use preemptive actions in dealing with the children.  Often a judge will require parents to together develop a parenting plan.  A parenting plan can involve anything that is relevant in dealing with the children including living arrangements, visitation and most importantly dispute resolution.  Therefore, when the parents disagree they must first turn to the parenting plan to determine how to resolve the dispute.

Diffusing Bad-Mouthing

There are many benefits to establishing a parenting plan early in the process:

    •    It ensures both parents are involved in the development of the child
    •    Brings parents together to determine what is most important
    •    It can establish a system to work out disputes that will avoid involvement of the legal system
    •    Puts the child first and foremost

Generally, when a divorce action is begun, parents are not permitted to speak disparagingly about the other to the children, although for many reasons previously discussed it may still occur.  A parenting plan can preemptively prevent bad-mouthing and also diffuse an existing negative situation.  It will give both parents an opportunity to discuss what is important to them and their children.  Also, by providing an opportunity for agreement on these items, anger between parents that causes bad-mouthing may be diffused, thus providing an outlet for discussion and resolution rather than disagreement.

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