by Peter Magee on May 12, 2016

Peter Magee

As I was watching a scene of the movie, ‘Rebound’ (don't judge me, there was nothig else on tv at the time), a scene of an otherwise un-eventful Catherine Zeta-Jones movie actually struck my attention…. allow me to set the scene. Husband and wife, who are now separated, are arguing in the living room while their children are in their room (in a small apartment), when the mum’s new ‘nanny’ (a handsome love interest) speaks freely to dad about what mum thinks of him. This is followed by mum finishing off what she really thinks of dad. None of the verbs used to describe dad are particularly nice. As if that wasn’t enough, mum then opens the window to shout more derogatory words to dad while he storms off to his car. While mum and her love interest are busy celebrating their performance, the children remain in the room. If I were not a family lawyer, then perhaps I would not have recalled the small fact of the children being in the next room of the small apartment. But I am a family lawyer and I did recall that the children remained in their room, probably listening to every word spoken. Quite frankly, such behaviour does not bode well for the Catherine's character if the children overheard the charming exchange of words between her, her ex-husband and her love interest in that particular scene.

Let's consider what a Judge would think about such behaviour if it were revealed to the Court some way or another.

If the parents in that silly movie were to end up in Court then the Judge is very likely to order the parents and the children attend an interview with a court appointed counsellor, psychologist or psychiatrist (let's call them 'experts' and 'family report writers'); who will write up a report about the interview, their comments and recommendations.

It is funny what children recall, and regurgitate, during these interviews. That fight in the apartment, those ugly words spoken to one another, the unhelpful partner chiming in and the mother sticking her head outside the window to shout further derogatory comments to her ex-husband as he storms off to his car….Guess what, it is highly likely that all of this will be revealed to a Judge sooner or later if the matter ends up in Court. Worse still, parents behaving badly in this manner creates traumatising memories for their children.

Parents may want to consider what this sort of behaviour is doing to their children. If that does not dissuade parents from saying derogatory things to (or about) one another, think of the consequences of having the children blurt things out to an expert or family report writer, whose report will end up before the Judge. Needless to say, those parents would look pretty selfish; not child focussed at all.

…oh and don't even bother trying to tell the kids to forget what they have seen or heard, don't even think about about creating stories for them to relay to the expert or family report writer. Kids will say the darndest things and try as you might, you cannot control what they say. Besides, doing so would be disastrous to your child’s well-being and disastrous your case!

Lesson for today for separated parents, choose your words wisely… and be nice to one another especially when the kids are around or within ear-shot!

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