You Have Rights in This Situation
Video Transcribed: I want to talk to you today about how to handle it if your children’s mother is disparaging you to the children. This is an unfortunate situation that should never happen, and it happens more frequently than I think most people would be comfortable knowing.
The good news is that you do have rights in this situation, you just have to be willing to assert them. If you learn about a situation or you witness a situation where that’s what’s going on that she’s made negative comments about you to the children and she has made negative comments in your presence, what you should do is obviously don’t retaliate and do not further escalate the situation by doing the same … Basically, don’t do the same thing back to her.
If the children repeat something to you that she said, I think that good parenting rules the day there, and you probably want to in a diplomatic way explained to them, “Well, that’s not true” or whatever that is age-appropriate that you can do to try to defuse the situation.
If it’s something to do with whatever’s going on amongst the adults, for example, if there’s litigation going on, probably the best way to handle that with your kids is just to explain to them that those are adult concerns and they needn’t worry about it.
Now, what about your legal rights? Well, there are a couple of ways to handle a situation like that. If you are in the midst of litigation for a divorce or a paternity action, that behavior typically is considered to violate the automatic temporary injunction that drops by statute under Title 43 whenever you file a divorce or file a paternity action.
You can ask your attorney, or if you’re pro se, file this yourself, you can file for a citation for contempt of court for violating the automatic temporary injunction. Now, that is a punitive measure that’s designed basically to punish her for her actions.
But what about if you need relief in the meantime to put a stop to it? As we’ve always discussed in the past, contempt can take a while to move forward. It’s quasi-criminal so she has a right to a jury trial, and if she asserts that right it can drag the matter out quite a bit. So how do you handle it? Well, if you want to stop it now, you can ask the judge for a couple of different types of relief.
At a minimum, you could ask for a Judicial Order of Parental Conduct that will command both of you … And it’s a long list of rules, and basically, the idea of it is to prevent that exact kind of conduct to prevent involving children in adult matters like litigation to basically order both parents to foster a good relationship with the other parent. That’s probably the least restrictive method you have at your fingertips, but it is something to consider.
In a more extreme case, you might want to file a motion to have a Parenting Coordinator appointed. Parenting Coordinators can be useful in helping to resolve the conflict between parents and depending on what the nature of their role is, they might even be given the ability to adjudicate disputes. They can be useful in helping to handle a situation where one parent is disparaging the other.
Now, if you have a really bad situation, you may also want to look at filing a Motion to Modify or a Gibbons Motion. What that is is basically asking the court to modify the existing custodial arrangement. And your argument, anytime you raise that, you’re basically saying to the court that you believe there’s been a substantial material change that justifies the change in circumstances in the best interest of the children. Your argument here would be that “Well, she keeps disparaging me to the children.
It’s harming them, and this court needs to act.” Now, again, this is not going to get you into court instantaneously. These take time to make their way through the court and it could be a few months before you get a trial on that. So, again, it’s not immediate relief.
If you’re dealing with a really bad situation, you may want to talk to an attorney about an emergency. Again, what you’d be asserting is that this is an emergency. The standard of proof is basically that you have to demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that the child is in surroundings that immediately threatened his or her safety, and that the child will be irreparably harmed if … Well, it’s health, safety, welfare, and the child will be irreparably harmed if the court fails to act.
So you’d be talking about a pretty serious situation with disparagement to justify an emergency, but if your situation is really bad, you might go that route. At the very least, it will get you into court very quickly. The court has to respond to that within 10 days and issue some kind of a ruling, and it may get you a hearing faster than the Gibbons Motion or faster than trying to file contempt on her. So, if you’re dealing with a situation where it’s an immediate emergency, that’s an option.
My personal view of it is that if you’re going to do any of those things, you should file contempt no matter what and I think you want to make the point that this is unacceptable and that you are willing to stand up to her. But as far as what else you do to stop it, I think the level of escalation really just depends on the nature of the transgression.
Now, if you’re custodial is another option available. If you have custody and she has visitation and she’s doing this, you can file something called a Notice of Suspension of Visitation. Now, again, I would pause that this is not something you want to do if you’re not dealing with a serious emergency because, basically, what you’re telling the court is you’re going to withhold.
There is statutory justification for that if you’re talking about a serious situation where there’s an imminent threat of harm, but the standard on a Notice for Suspension is similar to that for an emergency. I think in either situation, you don’t want to go there unless it’s because it’s a really bad situation particularly since there are attorney’s fees involved if you were found to have abused it. So, don’t be that guy.
But those are your options, and any of those can be used depending on what is going to best meet your needs. If you find yourself in a situation where you are being disparaged, you should go to dads.law where dads are not disposable, and we’d be happy to help you out. If you are looking for a divorce attorney for men or a men’s rights attorney in Tulsa, contact me.