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David R. Hartwig, Esq.
Family Law & Divorce
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What to do when your ex is badmouthing you

Divorce is done; Custody is awarded; but the other side keeps on bad-mouthing you. Yes, it happens! Your divorce case is completed, or custody orders are in place, but the other side keeps telling your relatives, your friends, even your employer and anyone else who will listen what a totally terrible person you are, how you cheated in gaining what you were awarded, and whatever other terrible things the other person can create to tear you down. And often, the children are included in those tirades.

Keeping the children out of the parties’ disputes is probably one of the most important goals. Putting the children in the middle can be damaging, catastrophic, and could even alienate the children.

Steps to take to protect your children

So, what can you do? The answer depends on what is being said and to whom. If the children are involved, hopefully there are restraining orders in the divorce decree, parenting plan, or custody order. You have the option of going back to court to hold the other party in contempt (which could include being awarded your attorney fees). Or, if the children are being affected, you might need to modify the custody arrangement to restrict contact with the children. You can also move to have a Special Master appointed to control communications.

You really need to take steps to protect your children. And this is not a DIY situation. You will need a family law attorney experienced and trained in high-conflict custody matters.

Steps to take to protect your reputation and stop the defamation

You need to take action, especially if the bad-mouthing or lies are told to others, your family, friends, or you boss (yes, I have seen cases where the employer required investigations of a person based on the other parties’ lies). Again, you can go back to court to hold that other party in contempt, and punished by the court. Or, if those terrible statements rise to a sufficient level causing you damage, you can file a separate suit for defamation.

False accusations of unethical, immoral or illegal actions can significantly damage your reputation in the eyes of your children, community and the court. Defamation is when someone makes a false allegation or accusation about you to a third party and your reputation is harmed by this slander (spoken) or libel (printed) action. The defamation action may award you money damages, an ongoing injunction prohibiting the other party from any such communication, and a public retraction.

Again, this is not a DIY matter. You will need an attorney who knows defamation law, and it probably will be helpful to have that attorney also be experienced in family law. I know, as I have handled both types of cases, in tandem, to a successful outcome.

I am David R. Hartwig, Esq., a Salt Lake City attorney with extensive experience helping parents resolve simple or high-conflict custody issues reaching arrangements that work for children and parents. Child custody involves parent-time and visitation schedules, and can affect support. I help in all of these areas, providing comprehensive service clients need to achieve their custody goals.

Factors In Child Custody Decisions

As an experienced Utah child custody lawyer, I understand that custody cases may become a contentious issue even years after an order is finalized. The trend in Utah toward joint custody often creates messy, unworkable situations, which ultimately lead to enforcement issues when parents do not abide by their custody orders.

The best interests of the child must be considered, including:

• Whether joint legal or physical custody will benefit the child’s physical, psychological and emotional needs, or the child’s development

• The parents’ ability to give first priority to the child’s welfare, and reach shared decisions in the child’s best interest

• Whether each parent is capable of encouraging and accepting a positive relationship between the child and the other parent

• Whether both parents participated in raising the child before the divorce

• The distance between the parents’ homes

• The parents’ maturity and their willingness and ability to protect the child from conflict that may arise between the parents

• The parents’ ability to cooperate with each other and make decisions jointly

• Any history of, or potential for, child abuse, spouse abuse, or kidnapping

• Any other factors the court finds relevant

Despite the complicated and sensitive nature of custody matters, I have helped many clients successfully establish custody orders.

Get Help With Your Child Custody Issue

If you have a child custody issue, please contact me, David R. Hartwig, Esq. I am an experienced Salt Lake City custody lawyer dedicated to helping clients resolve complex custody issues and implement necessary custody orders. For high-conflict cases, I am also one of the few Utah child custody modification attorneys trained as a Special Master for ongoing dispute resolution.

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