When a parent is physically abusive to a child, he or she will, understandably, have a difficult time gaining custody or visitation rights in a divorce. Verbal abuse can be just as damaging in its own way, yet it is more difficult to prove. Because it often isn't recognized as domestic violence, a court may not deny or even restrict parents' access to their children if they are verbally abusive to them.

Verbal abuse also causes mental and emotional damage to a child. It often is a precursor to physical violence. Children who are being verbally abused by a parent are likely to be victims of physical abuse as well. It's essential to look for signs of that.

Verbal Abuse Is Not Illegal

Although we all know that verbal abuse is detrimental to a child's well-being, possibly well beyond childhood, it's not against the law. The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution gives people the right to say whatever they choose to in their own homes -- even to their child. Therefore, a judge cannot legally deny custody or visitation rights based on allegations of verbal abuse alone.

Sometimes parents make false claims of verbal abuse in order to try to prevent the other parent from having access to the children. Therefore, it's understandable that judges can be skeptical of such allegations.

What Can You Do if Your Child Is Being Verbally Abused by Your Co-Parent?

If your child has been or is currently being verbally abused by his or her other parent, it's essential to discuss the issue with your attorney to determine how best you can protect that child. Chances are that your spouse has done other things that may persuade a judge to determine that this parent's contact with the child should be limited and/or supervised.

Judges are mandated by law to make custody and visitation decisions based on what is in the best interest of the children. Your family law attorney can help you work to make the strongest case possible if you believe that your co-parent's behavior is harming your child.