Q. My ex and I split up about four months ago. We were together almost ten years and had two sons together. She had an affair, I found out and moved my kids out the next day. She sees the boys intermittently, but it’s difficult since she’s living with the guy. Yesterday I found an open letter on Facebook from our family pet. The pet lives with her and the letter was written like it was from the pet, talking about how much he missed my oldest son. My son hasn’t seen it, but I’m afraid he will, and it just seems like it’s hitting below the belt. What’s good ex-etiquette?
A. I wish I could say that’s a new one, but it’s not. Rarely do people put their best foot forward when they are breaking up, and those who go outside of their relationship rarely consider what the fall out will do to their children. Many want the kids to move on as quickly as they do and when they can’t they often blame the other parent for poisoning the kids against them. Sometimes that’s true, but when the kids know more than they should, they may reject the perpetrating parent all by themselves. Or, they feel torn because they know the details, but love both their parents and are faced with making a choice when they don’t have the emotional where-with-how to so.
It’s important that parents remember that when they break-up their child is uprooted from their home, possibly from their school and everything they know—then add someone using guilt to manipulate a them by writing letters from their dog? On top of everything else, that’s emotional abuse in my book.
My first suggestion is to call your ex and ask her to take the post down. Sounds obvious, but many don’t want to talk to the ex and avoid any interaction. Grit your teeth and make the call. If she says no, I would then appeal to the website, explaining that the post is inappropriate and why. There is the question of how old your son is and if he even has a way to see the open letter on social media, but there’s also the concern of how airing this dirty laundry will affect him. The goal is to protect the children from pain—not put it out there for all to see. If there is a way to hide the post on your page, do it immediately.
Your ex should also be advised that anything—from texts to Instagram and Facebook posts—are admissible in court. If there’s a custody hearing, my bet is a judge will not take kindly to that level of manipulation and she is running the risk of receiving only limited time with her children for now.
I would also caution her about introducing the kids to her new guy. Although it’s not “against the law” to bring the kids around, it could be emotionally detrimental at this juncture. The kids don’t need to know the gory details, nor do they have to have her new living arrangements right in front of their faces. If mom is living with this new guy she may want to consider day visits until the dust settles, and don’t be afraid to call on a therapist if the kids display signs of stress and anxiety. That’s good ex-etiquette.
Ex-Etiquette®, runs in countless newspapers and websites all over the world. It is written by Dr. Jann Blackstone, who specializes in child custody, divorce, and stepfamily mediation. Dr. Jann is the author of seven books on divorce, remarriage, and co-parenting, specifically, Ex-Etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After Divorce and Separation, and other Ex-etiquette books. Dr. Blackstone is also the founder of Bonus Families,501 c3 non-profit organization dedicated to peaceful coexistence between divorced or separated parents and their combined families.