Insulting the Other Parent in Divorce and Custody Cases

Angry parents insulting each other
Insulting the other parent or arguing in front of the kids can be harmful.

Insulting the other parent in a divorce or custody case can be tempting.  He or she may have done 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.

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. That 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.”

Insulting the Other Parent in Divorce and Child Custody Situations

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

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

In addition, putting down the other parent can show the judicial officer that you are not willing and/or able to put the interests of your child ahead of your own feelings towards the other parent.

Judges have a great deal of experience with family law situations.  They are able to get to figure out if one parent is truly bad for the child.  Bad mouthing the other parent, particularly in front of the children, is not well regarded.

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.

Parenting Time and the Holidays

Parenting Time and the Holidays
Parenting Time and the Holidays can still be wonderful

Child Custody, Parenting Time, and the Holidays

The holidays are usually a great time for children.  However there is one sure way to spoil a child’s experience.  When both parents are fighting, being petty over little things, and putting their wants first, the child will often lose.  This is true in general, but can be especially painful during what should otherwise be a joyous and happy time for the child.  Parenting time and the holidays can be one of those experiences.

Holidays can often be a special time.  Along these lines, parents may place great importance on this time, and rightfully so.  However, because of this importance it’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that this is the time to dig in one’s heels and “assert my parenting rights”.

With this in mind, here are some suggestions to make the holiday experience as best as it can possibly be when there are parenting time issues.

Ten Ideas for the Post-Separation Holidays

  1. The best interests of the children should come first … always
  2. Holidays can be a great time to build the relationship between parent and child.  This goes for both parents
  3. Court-ordered parenting time schedules, which should include holiday provisions, are still the rule …
  4. … But flexibility can also go a long way towards building goodwill with the other parent and making it a better holiday time for your children
  5. Along those lines, building in some holiday time for each parent with the child is often the best strategy
  6. The other parent’s holiday decisions may be based on family decisions, not just his or her own.  Sometimes he or she may not be able to control a schedule conflict
  7. Usually, each parent places the same amount of value and importance of spending holiday time with their children
  8. Usually the children, especially younger ones, place the same amount of value and importance of spending holiday time with each parent
  9. One parent is not “losing” if they generously offer flexibility to accommodate what’s best for their children
  10. Lastly, if any disputes over these issues go to Court, a Judge is generally going to be very underwhelmed with the party behaving unreasonably.  This may be especially true for behavior during the holidays.

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.

Can I Get an Annulment in Minnesota?

Annulment is for invalid marriages
Annulments are for invalid marriages

Can someone get an annulment in Minnesota?  The short answer is probably “no”.  Unfortunately, there are many popular misconceptions about annulments.  In particular, some believe that annulment is simply a convenient, low-cost alternative to divorce.  In reality, this is simply not the case.

Divorce vs. Annulment in Minnesota

A divorce is different from an annulment. 

  • A divorce is the legalized end of a valid marriage. 
  • An annulment is a legal recognition that the marriage had some deficiency from the start.  Therefore, this is not recognized as a marriage from the start. 

The reality is, in Minnesota there are only a few narrow circumstances for an annulment.  There are two types of situation in which an annulment may apply.  They are “void” marriages and “voidable” marriages.

Void vs. Voidable Marriages

Void marriages refer to marriages that were never and can never be valid as a matter of law.  These fall into two types:

  • Marriages with close blood relatives
  • Marriages when one party was still previously married

Most frequently this question arises in the second situation.  Specifically, a later spouse discovers that his or her partner was married previously and had never been legally divorced. 

In this situation, the latter marriage is automatically invalid in Minnesota.  The solution: The married party legally divorces their first spouse.  Then he or she remarries the new partner.

Voidable marriages are allowed to continue, despite their deficiency, unless one party or the other challenges the marriage in a timely manner based on the deficiency.  Voidable marriages in Minnesota include:

  • At least one party was underage (less than 18)
  • One party was not able to consummate the marriage and the other party did not know of this at the time of marriage or
  • One party lacked capacity due to any of:
    • Incapacity due to being under the influence of drugs or alcohol
    • Mental incapacity
    • One party committed fraud or used force to compel the marriage

Annulment Doesn’t Usually Apply to Marriages

Most reasons for dissolving a marriage, like financial struggles, infidelity, disagreements regarding child care, or abuse don’t satisfy the annulment criteria.  This is why divorce, not annulment, is almost always the necessary course of action if one party wants to end a marriage.

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.

Helping Children in a Divorce

Helping children in a divorce
Helping a child in a divorce is usually needed

A divorce is a significant loss to many spouse enduring it.  However, even more so divorces can affect the well-being, psychological health, and emotional development of the children involved. Helping children in a divorce can be critical.  The following are some ways in which parents can help minimize the negative effect divorce can have on their children.

Distinguish the Parent/Parent and Parent/Child Relationships

Remind the child that it’s not their fault.  Highlight the difference between the relationship between both parents and the relationship each parent has with the child. 

On a related note, continue to maintain an active and positive parent/child relationship after the divorce.  A child still needs this from both parents, even after a divorce. Emphasize that both parents will continue to love and care for the child.

Helping Children in a Divorce: Keep Conflict to a Minimum 

This may be the most important predictor of eventual outcome for the children.  Yes in many cases there are bitter, unresolved feelings between the parents.  These feelings often make it easy to fall into the trap of lashing out at the other parent or speaking badly of the other parent.  This is particularly harmful if it’s done in front of the child.  Helping children in a divorce can sometimes mean knowing when to stay silent.

Often, a divorce resolved through alternative dispute resolution, like mediation, and coupled with a parenting plan agreement made by both parents can help reduce the sense of anger and “loss” associated with a full-blown divorce trial.  This can help the parents avoid much of the anger and resentment and make it easier to be at least civil with the other parent.   These alternative methods to trial are highly recommended in most cases.

Helping Children in a Divorce: Stand United

Remember, parenting doesn’t end with the divorce.  In many children’s eyes their mother and father are a cohesive unit who they refer to as “my parents”, not necessarily “my mom” and “my dad”. 

Imagine the difficult choices a child may face if placed in a situation in which the child is keenly aware of the anger between both parents.  The child may often be worried about showing preference for one parent by showing affection to one first or more often.  Children should never have to make those choices.  Helping children in a divorce involves working with the other parent.

Communicate Openly and Directly with the Other Parent

Parents should negotiate with each other regarding how they will resolve any parental disputes in the future.  This may involve some form of direct negotiation or alternative dispute resolution.  Generally, unless a child is endangered, going back to court should be a last resort of the parties.

In addition, communication should be direct between the parents whenever possible (situations with domestic abuse would be the notable exception).  Children should not be used as shuttle messengers between the parents.

Remember, you never stop being a parent.  A child deserves the best efforts of both parents to help them develop into an emotionally health and happy adult.

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.