Q: How can I ask the judge to make my ex stop discussing child support with our son?
Divorce was final in 2007. I was awarded primary custody and child support. Our son decided to go live with his Dad in 2011 and Dad stopped paying child support. Son was kicked out of Dad's house in early 2020 and I asked the child support administration to collect support until our son graduated high school. Part of the marital property settlement was to split the proceeds of the home in 3 so that one third would be for our son. I don't believe that the money is in existence anymore and was spent. It was under the control of my ex and his father. In light on the money not being there for my son, I'd like to hold my ex in contempt for not paying the ordered support. He has confronted our son multiple times and continues to harm him by involving him in child support issues. I want to court to make him stop. What do I need to file? I'm in Maryland.
A: They can't make your ex stop. A judge can order restrictions on visitation and issue orders prohibiting disparaging comments and inappropriate discussions that are deemed harmful to the mental and emotional health of the child, assuming you have a therapist or psychiatrist who is seeing the child and has identified these topics as causing actual emotional injury or trauma. The only way such an order can truly be enforced is if the judge imposes supervised visitation, requiring a neutral adult be present at any time visitation takes place. That seems unlikely to happen for this type of conduct. Parents say all sorts of damaging things in the presence of their children, often disparaging the other parent or inappropriately discussing topics that cause upset or harm to the child (e.g., making the child feel guilty for the breakup of their parents, or describing one parent in ugly or hurtful ways that causes alienation between the child and that parent or leads to lack of self-confidence and self-worth in the child). Unfortunately, these issues can only be established through regular therapy sessions by a licensed professional, and the court is limited in what it can do. Given the time frames described in your question, your child would appear to be in his late teens or maybe has already reached adult age. There is little that can be done now, other than ban all visitation with your ex; but at older ages, the court is more likely to allow the older teen to make the decision as to the level of visitation. Getting your son therapy may be a better help to allow him to process and deal with your ex's comments and emotionally abusive language, and recognize that he (your son) is not at fault for any aspect of the divorce and your ex's failure to live up to his legal obligations and responsibilities. As for enforcing the separation agreement, I assume it was incorporated into the divorce, so it may be enforced as part of the judgment. You may ant to take the agreement and divorce decree to a lawyer to review your options. It may be possible to have a monetary judgment entered against your ex for the amount he was supposed to set aside for your son, as well as for any child support arrears.
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