Sticks and Stones – Do Words Really Hurt in Family Law Cases?

We all know the old children’s rhyme that sticks and stones break bones but words never hurt you, but do we ever consider the effect of words on children in family law cases. The animosity that can go back and forth between parents can cause even the best of parents to talk badly about the other parent to the children. For parents thinking about casting that stone at the other parent in front of the children, they need to keep in mind the effect that it can have on the children.

Family law courts are particularly concerned with this type of behavior by parents around the children. To deal with it, the court has come up with certain preventative measures which they hope will prevent parents from engaging in this type of abusive behavior. An important part of these measures is the use of standing orders of the court which apply in every family law case filed in a particular county.

Among the standing orders are orders which prohibit a parent from disparaging the other parent in the presence of the children. This includes talking negatively about the other parent around the children whether in person, by telephone, or electronically. Parents can show this type of behavior by the other parent through witnesses, recordings, texts, and e-mails for example. A judge confronted with this type of behavior will likely see it as unfavorable conduct on behalf of the other parent, and it could sway them to rule in favor of the parent who was disparaged in a court proceeding.

Another standing order of the court which has to do with potential harm to the children is the prohibition against discussing the litigation with the children. This type of behavior by a parent can be particularly harmful to a child as they can become directly involved in the legal dispute between the parents. This can not only cause harm to the child but to the relationship between the child and the parents as discussing litigation can turn a child against one of the parents.

Considering the possible consequences of parents either disparaging each other or discussing the pending litigation with their children, an independent party like a judge or jury can certainly be concerned about the behavior and make a decision which will ultimately go against the party committing the wrongful behavior. As a parent, you must be mindful of these potential pitfalls in your case and work to avoid engaging in using words that you think may not harm your children.

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