LOS ANGELES (CBS) — Should the state decide whether a husband can bad-mouth his ex-wife on the Internet?
That’s the question surrounding a nasty divorce and child custody fight that has quickly become a battle over First Amendment rights.
Pennsylvania dad Anthony Morelli started a blog called ThePsychoExWife.com in 2007 after his marriage disintegrated.
While Morelli did not reveal the name of his wife in his posts, the blog did contain insults leveled at his former spouse.
When his ex-wife found out about the blog, she went to court and got a judge to shut the site down.
Now Morelli is appealing, claiming his right of free speech is being violated — an argument that KFWB 980 legal analyst Royal Oakes says may have some merit.
“This is America…we don’t believe in prior restraint, meaning just because we don’t like speech, we don’t shut it down, we don’t prevent it,” said Oakes.
Oakes predicted that Morelli may find some sympathizers if he decides to pursue the case in appellate court.
Even Morelli himself is warning readers of the potential application the ruling could have on child custody cases in which parents voice their concerns on social networking sites.
“Imagine a judge telling you that you cannot talk about your children on “any public media” — which would include things like Facebook updates, Twitter, or your personal blog — or you will lose custody,” he writes. “Imagine the far-reaching consequences for bloggers everywhere if orders such as this one are left unchallenged.”
The couple have reportedly been in litigation over four years and have spent around $80,000 in legal fees.
Oakes said that despite the judge’s order to shut down controversial blog, Morelli’s case is getting more attention than ever before, netting an estimated 200,000 visitors to his website Save The Psycho Ex-Wife every month.
“I’ll bet he gets a few ex-husbands to pony up some money,” Oakes said. “He’s calling his wife ‘terroristic’, he says she suffers from borderline personality disorder, he also attacks her new partner.”
“It makes the McCourt divorce look genteel by comparison,” he added.