Don’t Bad-Mouth the Other Parent – Child Custody Modifications
20 June 2018IN: Family Law
Your divorce has been finalized and you are adapting to life as a divorced parent with the financial struggles and child custody arrangements that are your new reality. Your children are also learning to adjust to custody/visitation exchanges and living in two households. This can be difficult for children even when parents work well together. You may feel you need to vent your frustration about the divorce and the other parent’s behavior, but you should be cautious about doing so in the presence of your children.
Parents often deliberately or inadvertently make derogatory statements about the other parent to the children. You may not see anything wrong with telling your children the “truth” about the other parent but doing so could harm your children. Psychologist Leah Klungness, Ph.D., wrote in 5 Reasons Not to Bad-mouth the Other Parent, US News and World Report, February 20, 2017, that “bad-mouthing” the other parent is never the right parenting choice. Dr. Klungness opines the children may be harmed in the following ways:
- Children may feel helpless and confused hearing a parent rant about things the children do not understand.
- Parents are role models and children learn profanity and careless language modeled by their parents.
- Children realize they are the biological half of the other parent. The labeling you give to the other parent can damage your children’s sense of control.
- Oversharing burdens your children and does not make the situation better. Your children do not need a play-by-play report of what the other parent has done or failed to do.
- Online venting may be shared or otherwise get back to your children. Dr. Klungess recommends a therapist, journal, or in-person support group rather than online venting.
Consequences of Making Derogatory Statements – Custody Modification
Each Tennessee parenting plan contains the bill of rights for parents found at Tenn. Code Ann. §36-6-101. Included in these rights is the right to be free of unwarranted derogatory remarks make about a parent or the parent’s family by the other parent in the presence of the child. Making derogatory statements about the other parent may cause you to be held in contempt of court or provide support for the other parent to seek a custody modification. The financial costs and stress of defending against a custody modification can be significant. Also, your children cannot unhear the statements you have made and this could cause irreparable damage to your relationship with your children.