My Ex-Wife Bad-Mouths Me to Our Boys. Can I Tell Them the Truth About Her? Rose Law Group Family Law Attorney Audra Petrolle has an answer

Illustration by Tomi Um / New York Times Magazine

By Kwame Anthony Appiah | The New York Times Magazine

After a decades-long marriage, my wife and I divorced. We have two sons, now grown. Before we separated, our relationship became increasingly distant. During that time, she refused any physical closeness, telling me, “That part of my life is over.”

When my wife left, it was for a “trial separation” (her idea). Our younger son stayed with me. Our older son had been out of our home for several years and has had problems with drug addiction since he was a teenager, with multiple stints in jail and several stays in rehab. He is currently in jail.

After my wife left, I initiated divorce proceedings, and we were finally divorced about a year later. As in most separation agreements, there was a clause requiring each of us to refrain from disparaging the other to the children. I have done my best to abide by this clause.     


“Minor children should never be placed at the center of parental conflict, and evidence to the contrary could get you into big trouble with the court. Once the children reach adulthood, whether disclosure related to the other parent is appropriate or will actually benefit your relationship, is something to explore with a mental health professional. 

“And, depending on the specific terms of your non-disparagement agreement with you former spouse or partner, there could be ongoing legal implications.”

~ Audra Petrolle 

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February 2020