Bad Mouthing a Parent in a Divorce or Custody Case

Angry parents bad mouthing each other
Arguing can be expected, just keep the kids out of it

Bad mouthing a parent in a contentious situation may be tempting.  He or she may do things you dislike or downright find detestable.

Hurling insults or talking about how bad the other parent is may make a parent feel better.  However, it’s rarely useful or positive to do that in a divorce or custody situation.  Bad mouthing a parent may achieve the following:

  1. The bad mouthing parent may appear hostile and uncooperative.
  2. It may reflect badly on that parent before an evaluator or Judge.
  3. It demonstrates putting that parent’s feelings ahead of the child’s.

Along these lines, the following was written by Judge Michael Haas after 25 years on the bench in Cass County, Minnesota.  He retired in 2002, however his advice to parents in Minnesota divorce and child custody cases remains as profound as it was years ago.

The Judge’s Letter to Divorcing Parents

“Your children have come into this world because of the two of you. Perhaps you two made lousy choices as to whom you decided to be the other parent. If so, that is your problem and your fault.

No matter what you think of the other party—or what your family thinks of the other party—these children are one-half of each of yours. Remember that, because every time you tell your child what an “idiot” his father is, or what a “fool” his mother is, or how bad the absent parent is, or what terrible things that person has done, you are telling the child half of him is bad.

That is an unforgivable thing to do to a child. It is not love. That is possession. If you do that to your children, you will destroy them as surely as if you had cut them into pieces, because that is what you are doing to their emotions.

I sincerely hope that you do not do that to your children. Think more about your children and less about yourselves, and make yours a selfless kind of love, not foolish or selfish, or your children will suffer.”

Bad Mouthing a Parent in Divorce and Child Custody Situations

Putting the best interests of the children first is hopefully what drives anyone in a child custody or divorce proceeding.  If that’s not enough, there are also practical reasons during a divorce or custody case to be honorable.

The inability to get along with the other parent can reflect badly on your character in the eyes of the judicial officer.   It also may make him or her question your ability to be a mature and positive role model for your children.

In addition, bad mouthing the other parent can show a Judge that you’re not willing and/or able to put your child’s interests ahead of your own feelings towards the other parent.

Judges have a great deal of experience with family law situations.  They are able to figure out if one parent is behaving badly.  Bad mouthing the other parent, particularly in front of the children, is not well regarded.  A Judge or evaluator may hold it against you when making decisions about your children.

In sum, insulting the other parent in a divorce or custody case is a bad idea.  It’s bad for the children.  It can reflect badly on the insulting parent.  Lastly, it has no value strategically.  It’s ok to talk about concerns you have about the other parent.  However, crossing the line into insulting or demeaning behavior is never good.

For other divorce or family law questions, please consult the list to the left or the FAQ page.  If you’re interested in retaining an attorney to help you, please feel free to contact my office for a consultation using the contact information on the left or the contact form on the Majeski Law home page.  For Court rules, please click here.