How to Handle an Ex Who Badmouths You to Your Children


One common problem after a Pasadena divorce is when former spouses use their children to take out their anger on each other. This often comes in the form of comments subtly disparaging one parent, such as claiming that Dad would be able to take children on a trip to Disneyland if Mom hadn't been so greedy during the divorce settlement or saying that the reason Dad doesn't visit more often is because he's too busy with his new girlfriend to have time for his family.

When your ex is badmouthing you to your children, you want to avoid giving a weak or retaliatory response. A weak response minimizes what has happened and fails to adequately address the child's concerns. This is most common in conflict-adverse parents. A retaliatory response addresses the comment with a similar insult towards the other parent. This only adds fuel to the fire and creates an escalating pattern of insults on both sides.

A protective response is ideal. This type of response addresses the child's concerns without inflaming the situation. For example, if your child reports that your ex claims that you no longer love your children, you could say, "I understand why you're upset, but your mother and I divorced because we see things differently and couldn't handle living together anymore. It had nothing to do with you. I will always love you and continue to be a part of your life."

The occasional inflammatory comment is normal after a divorce. Even parents who are trying to get along for the sake of their children sometimes slip up and say things in the heat of the moment. But if your ex is engaging in an ongoing pattern of badmouthing you to your child, you may be the victim of Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS). This is a disorder in which a child develops an irrational dislike or fear of the one parent while clinging excessively to the other parent. If your ex is constantly badmouthing you to your child, your child may eventually start the believe that the unkind words are true and pull away from your attempts to continue a positive relationship. By extension, your child may even start to avoid seeing grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and other relatives on your side of the family.

There are several legal remedies for parents who are the victim of PAS, including requesting a custody evaluation, getting a court sanction against the offending parent, or have visits supervised by a third party to prevent the offending behavior.

How Can We Help?

Please call our office at (626) 683-8113 or email us at if you have questions about the possible legal remedies for PAS. Our Pasadena divorce attorneys are eager to advocate for the best interests of you and your child.