“Abusive and Traumatizing Statements to Children and Restraining Orders”

One of the hardest things for a judge to control in a family law case is statements from one parent to the children that are inappropriate. It is very hard to police on a daily level, and oftentimes the only way to know what is being said is through the children themselves, which means minor’s counsel is necessary. The court then has hard decisions to make about restricting or supervising visitation, and fashioning a remedy can be very difficult. Often, there are simply repeated orders not to discuss the case or disparage the other parent, which are not aggressively enforced.

However, one court recently took a different approach in a very extreme case. In the case of Altafulla v. Ervin, 238 Cal. App. 4th 571, the court found that a father had told his three daughters very traumatizing and terrible things about their mother, and that the daughters sufferance substantial emotional distress from what they were told. The court then found that this was abusive behavior and issued a restraining order that protected not only the mother, but the daughters as well.

This is obviously an extreme case and is not an appropriate remedy in all cases, but it signals a shift that courts are moving to protect children from this sort of behavior from parents. Only results that have some teeth to them will reduce the amount of cases where one parents says disparaging and hurtful things about the other parent, and it may take some time, as the current status quo is that this issue is not enforced very often. There are simply quite a few people who don’t care if they are hurting their child mentally and emotionally with what they say, as long as they feel that they are getting back at their ex and courts are going to be continue to be called to intervene on behalf of the children.

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