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Help! My Ex Is Turning My Kids Against Me.

As I've mentioned in a previous post, the best time to pursue a divorce can be when emotions between the two soon-to-be-ex spouses are not running at an all-time high. In that event, cooler heads are prevailing and both parties seek to move through the process efficiently.

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Unfortunately, the reality can often be that when a marriage is dissolving, feelings of one spouse toward the other are far from respectful. That's a tough situation as it is - but when children are involved and one spouse is trying to position the other in an extremely negative light in front of the kids, the environment becomes even more complicated.

Frankly, there are many spouses in the midst of a divorce who cannot help themselves from badmouthing the other party. For example, let's say a husband has cheated on his wife. It could be very difficult for the wife to let emotions against the husband go, right? Yet, the wife may take those emotions to another level by consistently telling her children that their father is a no-good, lousy, dishonest person.

In fact, some spouses may be so programmed to engage in this behavior that they may not even realize they're doing it. How so? One spouse could talk on the phone to a friend about their divorce, forgetting how children in the home may be nearby to overhear the unfiltered conversation taking place. True, they may be in another room watching cartoons, but those children can also hear a parent saying, "Bill is a cheater who sleeps around/uses drugs/drinks too much/isn't a good Father, etc."

Other situations may be more intentionally manipulative. Imagine the scenario in which a child visits their father's home over the weekend. While there, the child is playing rough and accidentally hits their head on a coffee table, requiring a visit to the emergency room for stitches. Naturally, this type of accident could've occurred almost anywhere, but because it happens during a divorce, the mother may say, "See? If you go to Daddy's house, it's not safe and bad things will happen to you there." The impressionable young mind of a child might take over and the child may no longer wish to visit a parent's home - leading to challenges with visitation.

If you find yourself in such a situation with a spouse trying to turn your children against you, you may be wondering if there any strategies that may help alleviate the problem so that divorce proceedings won't severely damage your relationship with your children.

While there are no guarantees that hurtful things will ever be said during a divorce, there are some strategies that can be pursued with the help of an attorney to lessen this likelihood.

When an attorney hears of such actions that may be taking place, it may make sense to go to court to pursue what is referred to as a Mutual Restraining Order prohibiting both parties from discussing any aspects of the case in front of the children or disparaging their spouse. It's possible this step alone may put an end to the problem.

If this step does not alleviate the situation, we may have a discussion with our client about filing a petition with the court for the child to have their own attorney appointed to the case. The attorney, who is known as the Child's Representative, who 
will advocate for what they find to be in the best interests of the
 children after reviewing the facts and circumstances of the case. The
 Child's Representative is tasked with meeting the children, the parties and any other relevant third parties that may assist the Child's 
Representative. In other instances, the court will appoint a Guardian Ad 
Litem (GAL), who is an expert appointed by the Court to provide the Court
 with his or her recommendations for the children.

Is there anything further that can be pursued if these efforts do not prove to be successful? Yes. We may be able to seek a court order to attend family therapyto address these issues. Such orders can have varying stipulations on who must attend the family therapy sessions. The entire family may need to attend therapy or if the situation is such that a child is already alienated against one parent, an order could be sought so that a family therapist may be appointed for that child.

In the midst of negative talk, think positive.

Don't despair and don't give up. Hurst, Robin & Kay can help you pursue avenues such as the ones above in an effort to keep the atmosphere between both parties as civil as possible - which may also help keep the relationship with your children well intact during divorce proceedings.

Let's talk more about the challenges of your present situation through an initial consultation. Schedule one with us today at 312.782.2400.

A Partner at HRK, John Kay has practiced law in Illinois for more than 20 years, the last 13 of which have been focused exclusively on complex family law. He received his undergraduate degree in Communications from the University of Wisconsin - Madison and his Juris Doctor from The John Marshall Law School.

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