Maybe you’ve heard disturbing accounts from divorced friends or co-workers about exes who are constantly badmouthing them to their children. As you can imagine, this puts children in a difficult position of feeling like they either have to agree with the parent who’s disparaging their mom or dad or they need to defend them. Either way, if it’s relentless, it can cause serious psychological harm to a child and damage their relationship with one or both parents.
You fear that your soon-to-be-ex isn’t above this kind of behavior. Should you seek to include a non-disparagement clause in your parenting plan to help prevent this behavior? What exactly do these clauses say, and can they be enforced?
What is included in a non-disparagement clause?
These causes can be simple or complex. Often, they’re just a line or two stating that neither parent will say anything negative about the other to the child or in front of them.
You can add provisions about not allowing others (like grandparents, aunts, uncles, new partners or spouses and friends) to speak ill of the other parent when you’re around or even let the child engage in badmouthing their other parent. Some non-disparagement clauses address social media posts that a child or their friends might see. Some state that a parent cannot ask a child to deliver a message (negative or otherwise) to the other parent.
Can you enforce a non-disparagement clause?
These clauses are often about codifying expectations rather than providing a means to take one another back to court. It can be difficult to prove that something negative was said. If you do take the matter to court, by the time you get there, your ex will probably have said a dozen far worse things.
If someone is saying vicious, untrue things to their child about their other parent that are harming the child and/or their relationship with that parent, that’s another matter. That may need to be addressed in court whether you have a non-disparagement clause or not.
Including a non-disparagement clause, however, gives co-parents an opportunity to talk about their expectations that neither will do anything to harm their child’s opinion of their parents or allow those in their family and social circles to do so. It’s probably going to be more aspirational than practical. If you have experienced legal guidance, you can make the decision that’s best for your family.