Hazing Spouses on the Internet: Constitutionally Protected or Bad Judgment…or Both?

A couple of years ago I posted a blog entitled, You Have the Right to Speak Your Mind About Your Spouse, But is It a Good Idea? The post addressed the constitutional rights of a divorced husband to create a website dedicated to his hatred toward his former wife. Well, the most recent installment of public hazing of spouses has appeared on two new websites that allow those who post on the sites to expose cheating husbands and their mistresses. The websites are www.hesahomewrecker.com and www.shesahomewrecker.com.

These websites are third-party sites which set forth a disclaimer disavowing the website creators of any liability for that which is posted on either site.  So, I asked a leading legal expert about this matter.  Los Angeles intellectual property lawyer Jeffrey Abrams of Harder Mirell & Abrams, LLP, who specializes in brand, reputation and privacy protection, advised potential users to be careful about posting and making a bad situation worse.  “Truth is ultimately a defense to a defamation lawsuit, but that does not necessarily stop someone from filing a lawsuit, which can be costly to defend, both in terms of legal fees and emotions. Further, while opinions are not actionable, there is often a fine line which is hard to draw on your own.  There is also no protection just because the statements are made on the Internet … there is actually more exposure to liability since posts can be broadcast worldwide, and the disclaimers on the website itself make the person posting, not the website, liable for any false and defamatory statements.”

In family law, I think there are other issues.  Even if such speech is constitutionally protected, isn’t there a real question of good judgment by a parent when they post on such a site about the father of their children?  The Internet is about as permanent as things get so what happens if the children find this information?  What if it impacts a husband’s employment?  What if the exposed mistress sues for defamation, or other torts, and is successful?  There are so many possible negative results from these Internet postings – even if everything stated is true and constitutionally protected – that one should ask before posting, how might this negatively impact me and my children in the future?