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Unfortunately, many parents find themselves having to deal with a bitter, irrational ex-spouse long after a divorce is final. The effects of that irrational behavior can influence children in a negative way and be a constant source of stress for the newly single parent.
Know your rights
How can you deal with an ex-spouse that is harassing you? This information should help. First, understand that, pursuant to Tennessee state law, both parents are entitled to the following rights:
- The right to unimpeded telephone conversations with the child at least twice a week at reasonable times and for reasonable durations. The parent exercising parenting time shall furnish the other parent with a telephone number where the child may be reached at the days and times specified in a parenting plan or other court order or, where days and times are not specified, at reasonable times,
- The right to be free of unwarranted, derogatory remarks made about said parent.
The non-custodial parent has the right to speak to the children as outlined above, at least twice a week at reasonable times. This is a minimum threshold. In today’s world of texting, most non-custodial parents are in contact with their children much more. Custodial parents may not interfere with that parent’s right to speak to the children as long as it is reasonable.
When harassment is present
At the same time, your children should not be subjected to listening to a parent talk negatively about the other parent. This is typically a hallmark of an angry ex-spouse and the negative language and remarks often spill over into the extended family. If your children are being subjected to this behavior, contact a lawyer, as you may be able to file a petition for contempt.
With respect to harassment, it is not against the law for your former spouse to contact you. However, when it reaches the level of harassment, you have the following options:
Option 1: If you are threatened, you can seek an Order of Protection. Typically, you need to be subject to immediate and irreparable harm before an Order of Protection will be granted. It is difficult for lawyers to determine from afar what threats are real and which are fake. You know your ex-spouse better than your attorney, so if you are in fear or feel threatened, you can take this route.
Option 2: Work with your attorney and try to get an injunction in place that prevents your former spouse from contacting you. This is similar to an Order of Protection in that it keeps your former spouse from contacting you but is not as serious (i.e. Order of Protection is more serious and can potentially affect someone’s employment, etc.).
As always, it is difficult to provide all the answers in a short article. Therefore, if you find yourself in a difficult post-divorce situation, contact your attorney and discuss your options. You may very well be able to stop the harassment.
Justin Thomas heads the Thomas Family Law Firm, PLC, which focuses on family law in Tennessee and Mississippi. • thomasfamilylaw.net.