Family Law Prof Blog

Editor: Margaret Ryznar
Indiana University
Robert H. McKinney School of Law

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

MA Supreme Court Overturns Enforcement of Non Disparagement Orders in Child Custody Cases

From the New York Times:

The acrimonious split of Masha and Ronnie Shak ended up where many divorces do these days — on Facebook.

As the proceedings unfolded, Mr. Shak offered a running commentary on social media, shared with the couple’s rabbi, assistant rabbi and members of their synagogue, court documents show.

He created a GoFundMe page entitled “Help me KEEP MY SON.” He called his ex-wife an “evil liar.” He illustrated the posts with a video of their one-year-old son, and told their friends to unfriend her.

That was until a probate court judge banned Mr. Shak from posting on social media about his divorce, a common practice known as a nondisparagement order.

ruling this week by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, stemming from the Shaks’ divorce, found such bans to be unconstitutional, a decision that could have broad implications in the state.

“As important as it is to protect a child from the emotional and psychological harm that might follow from one parent’s use of vulgar or disparaging words about the other, merely reciting that interest is not enough to satisfy the heavy burden” of restricting speech, Justice Kimberly S. Budd wrote in a 13-page ruling.

Jennifer M. Lamanna, a lawyer who represented Mr. Shak in the appeal, called the ruling a “game-changer” because family and probate judges in the state frequently give such orders, and treat violations as contempt of court, carrying severe penalties.

Read more here.

Hat Tip: CR

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/family_law/2020/05/ma-supreme-court-overturns-enforcement-of-non-disparagement-orders-in-child-custody-cases.html

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