Child custody is a delicate topic when it comes to divorce. Every nuance of the parental relationship can be dissected to determine who should get primary custody in the event of a dispute. Be it interpersonal relationships, phone calls, emails or texts all interactions can be scrutinized to support one spouse’s position. In the case of blogs, those postings can be even more damaging.
I was appalled to hear the story of an obviously bitter ex-husband and father of two, who created a blog called, The Psycho Ex Wife (which could be viewed several years ago at www.ThePsychExWife.com). This gentleman (and I use the term lightly) characterized his musings as “the true account of a marriage, divorce and subsequent child custody fight between a loving man, his terroristic ex-wife who we suspect suffers from Borderline Personality Disorder.”
The site was originally launched in 2007 by Anthony Morelli. Morelli hid behind anonymity posing as a blogger to describe in detail the many troubling aspects of his relationship with his former wife. He went on to describe his ex-wife, the mother of his children, as “…Jabba the Hut with less personality”. He continued to detail every perceived character flaw and parental misstep of his ex-wife.
The blog was live until 2011 when the site was shut down by a court order. A judge ruled that the website painted such a bleak picture of the man’s wife that it was deemed, “outright cruelty.” The judge also felt that the website could have a devastating and harmful effect on the couple’s children. The postings on the blog it was determined could eventually adversely affect any divorce mediation or divorce litigation proceedings and also become a factor if there was a child custody issue.
Freedom of Speech or Cyber-Bullying?
Morelli invoked The Constitution. He claimed that the injunction against his website violated the First Amendment. Where one would think this father and ex-husband would be more concerned with the welfare of his child in the pending child custody case he instead was more worried about this freedom of speech and the 200,000 users of his website.
One would think a family law attorney would have a field day attacking the father and ex-husband by asserting cyber-bullying. But would that same defense be used to weigh child custody privileges heavier for the mother, the perceived “victim” in the divorce proceedings. As a Woodland Hills family law expert, I might have gone that route, weighing obviously the preferences of the ex-wife and child custody goals.
At a recent court hearing in the couple’s ongoing and highly contentious child custody case, the judge ordered that the website be taken down and for the father to stop bad mouthing the mother in public. Yet, the judge left the existing shared custody arrangement in place. Quite an interesting ruling, to say the least.
One of our great privileges in the United States is that of freedom of speech. The constitution guarantees us that right. I do believe that if an ex-husband appeals the judge’s decision regarding removal of the blog, the decision will be overturned. It must be to protect his right to free speech. However, I do believe many people today have forgotten a basic lesson we all learned as children – simply because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.
Can’t we all hear our parents saying “If your friends jumped off a cliff, would you do it too?”! That same principle applies here. Simply because ex-husband has the constitutional right to freedom of speech, which includes bad mouthing his ex-wife, it doesn’t mean he should. In all child custody cases, the main focus must be on the best interests of the children. The ex-wife has publicly stated that her ten and twelve year old sons know of the blog and have asked their father to stop writing it. I don’t know of any family law judge, commissioner or child custody evaluator who would look favorably upon such a blog. In fact, in my experience, many judges might alter custody arrangements given such behavior. The ex-husband can say what he wishes, but he must also accept the consequences.
One parent publicly bashing the other is simply not in the best interests of the children. Period. Even if the allegations are true. Yes, even if.
Having practiced at a top Woodland Hills family law firm for over 35 years, I can understand the appeal a blog such as this might have for those who have been involved in lengthy and contentious child custody battles. It is my job to let my clients know that negative public rantings regarding their child’s other parent will only impact negatively upon blogger, and may affect the amount of custodial time with their children. Mr. Morelli may well find he ultimately wins the battle of the blog, but loses the custodial war.
About the Leon F. Bennett Family Law Firm
With over 35 years of experience as a divorce attorney in woodland hills, the Family Law Firm of Leon F. Bennett and his seasoned legal team have helped families reach mutually agreeable decisions regarding matters of divorce, custody, support, and the many rights and agreements associated with family law services. We offer a free first-time consultation to qualified candidates.
We handle cases of child custody in Southern California and the Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Riverside and Orange County areas. We represent clients in communities such as Woodland Hills, Calabasas, Agoura Hills, Oak Park, Westlake Village, Malibu, Thousand Oaks, Newbury Park, Camarillo, Moorpark, Oxnard, Pacific Palisades, Ventura County, Simi Valley, Santa Clarita, Valencia, Northridge, Tarzana, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, Santa Monica and Beverly Hills. Contact us today to help find a suitable family law solution with compassion and closure.