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 your. 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.”
To Parents Involved in Divorce and Child Custody Situations
I hope that putting the best interests of your children first is 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 indicate to 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 and are well able to get to the bottom of situations if one parent is truly bad for the child. Bad mouthing them, particularly in front of the children, will only reflect badly on you.