What to Do About Verbally Abusive Ex?

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“My ex-husband is verbally abusive. We have a 9 month old and he will say ugly things about me in front of our son. He tells me I get on his nervous and cusses at me. He calls me names, and he calls me several times during the day and night even when I ask him to stop. When he thinks I’m out with another guy he looks for me. He tells me that it will not be pretty when he catches me with another guy. I’m worried about the effect it will have on our son. What can I do? I have custody with my ex having visitation, but I would like sole custody. Is there anything I can do?”If his activity rises to the level of “harrassment” or “abuse” you may be eligible for restraining orders, which could also effect custody. Under the California Family Code Section 6320 “[t]he court may issue an ex parte order enjoining a party from molesting, attacking, striking, stalking, threatening, sexually assaulting, battering, harassing, telephoning, including, but not limited to, annoying telephone calls as described in Section 653m of the Penal Code, destroying personal property, contacting, either directly or indirectly, by mail or otherwise, coming within a specified distance of, or disturbing the peace of the other party, and, in the discretion of the court, on a showing of good cause, of other named family or household members.” Under section 6203, abuse means: (a) Intentionally or recklessly to cause or attempt to cause bodily injury. (b) Sexual assault. (c) To place a person in reasonable apprehension of imminent serious bodily injury to that person or to another. (d) To engage in any behavior that has been or could be enjoined pursuant to Section 6320.

Question: I do not know if your ex-husband has crossed the line from annoyance to harrassment; from nit-picking to abuse. If you do retain counsel, your attorney will want to know all behaviors about which you are complaining. You might want to keep a journal.Another thing you could do is let your ex- know that you are recording all of his calls, and recording your conversations. It is important to let him know, as that may influence the admissibility of such recordings. Perhaps if he knew he was being recorded, and that could come back to haunt him, he might change his ways. If he is saying mean things during exchanges, you might want to have a support person there as an extra percipient witness to prevent a “he said/she said” situation.

Sometimes in Court orders, we put in paragraphs that neither parent will make disparaging comments about the other in front of the children. Sometimes we request specific heirarchy of communication – e-mail, letter, limits on phone calls or purposes. Perhaps a co-parenting class for you an the ex- is in order to help you in the communication challenges you face now that you are not together.
Even “sole custody” is generally subject to the other parent’s right to visit. It is likely that father will be part of child’s life, even if you do not get along with him. Usually the Courts reserve “no contact” orders with children for folks who have committed domestic violence-type crimes against the other parent or the children, or have in some way been found to be an irresponsible danger to the child. I do wish for you that both of your child’s parents take into account your son’s best interests to continuing and frequent contact with both parents which generally will maximize his chance to grow up to be a happy healthy adult.