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Patrick L. Looper Patrick L. Looper
  • Serving All of Tennessee

Yes, It Is Possible to Go to Jail for Bad-Mouthing Your Ex-Spouse in Front of Your Children


You might have heard that contempt, in the sense of an overall negative attitude toward someone and a lack of respect for them, is one of the “four horsemen” that signal that a relationship is doomed, but in a legal context, “contempt” has a different meaning.  Contempt of court is when someone disobeys a court order.  If the court finds you in contempt, it can impose civil or criminal penalties, up to and including jail time.  Since a parenting plan is a court order, the court can hold you in contempt if you do not comply with the terms of the parenting plan.  For example, failure to comply might mean not allowing your ex to spend time with the children on the days specified in your parenting plan.  Tennessee case law holds that it is a parent’s duty to encourage the children to maintain a good relationship with both parents, except in cases where doing so would endanger the children.  Therefore, if you frequently say disparaging things about your ex-spouse in the presence of the children the two of you share, your ex can file a motion to hold you in contempt of court, and the court would be within its rights to grant it.  If you and your ex-spouse have an acrimonious relationship as co-parents, contact a Tennessee child custody lawyer.

The Parenting Plan Does Not Say That You Can Call Your Ex-Spouse an Idiot Hundreds of Times by Email and Text Message

The child in this case was born in August 2008, while her parents, Christopher and Courtney Parker, were married to each other and living in Tennessee.  When the child was three months old, Courtney and Christopher separated, and Courtney moved to Georgia with the child to be near her extended family.  Both parents remarried and had children with their new spouses; the child also had a stepbrother on her father’s side, as well as an older half-sister.  The child spent most of her time in Georgia with her mother, where she attended school and participated in church activities.  She visited her father in Tennessee on many weekends, and her medical care took place in Tennessee, because she was covered under Christopher’s health insurance plan.

In 2014, Christopher filed a motion to hold Courtney in contempt of court for her actions as a co-parent.  She had not allowed Christopher to exercise all of his parenting time, making excuses as to why the child could not visit him.  Even worse, she was frequently verbally abusive in her interactions with him.  At trial, he produced evidence in the form of text messages and emails where Courtney called him an idiot and other derogatory names hundreds of times.  Things got so bad between them that Courtney’s mother started acting as an intermediary in their communications, which helped matters somewhat.  Courtney admitted that she said disrespectful things to Christopher and about him, but she denied having done so in the child’s presence.  The court found her in criminal contempt and ordered her to pay Christopher’s attorney’s fees, which added up to more than $24,000.

Contact Our Office Today for Professional Help

When even those divorce apps that warn you when you are taking a disrespectful tone with your ex-spouse don’t help, you need a Knoxville child custody attorney.  Contact Patrick L. Looper for assistance with your case.


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