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Blogging and Divorce: Beware, or at Least Be Aware

This is the icon used to represent the "Psycho Ex Wife" brand online

Over at She Posts this week, they covered a blogging news item about the court-ordered shuttering of  “Psycho Ex Wife,” an ostensibly anonymous blog published by a divorced father and his second wife. As you might imagine, the “Psycho Ex Wife” to which he and she are referring in the blog’s title is – you guessed it – the guy’s ex wife, the mother of his children.

The blog has for several years now chronicled in specific detail this couple’s claims of downright crazypants behavior by his ex, particularly related to post-divorce co-parenting matters.  At some point, other disgruntled divorced parents and stepparents found the blog and got in on the act, clearly relishing the opportunity to have found a place online to bash their own exes with claims of “psycho” behavior.  A niche online community was born, and in addition to serving as one couple’s personal blog, “Psycho Ex Wife” became the go-to spot online for divorced parents and second spouses to vent about how horrible their children’s other parent is.

Well, according to the item in She Posts this week, a family court judge has now shut down “Psycho Ex Wife,” while sorting out the current child custody dispute between the divorced father who runs the blog, and the mother of his children, the woman he has made a side career out of humiliating, demonizing and insulting online.

Can I just say that I am really, really glad to hear this?

I remember distinctly the first time I somehow stumbled onto “Psycho Ex Wife” myself, a few years back. My jaw dropped as I realized that this guy and his wife were running a very active blog and online community based entirely around public bashing of the mother of the guy’s children. Even the title was a direct insult against this mom, and the blog’s icon depicted a cartoon drawing of an insane, banshee-looking woman waving her arms in the air. The ugliness astounded me.

Yes, the man and the stepmother used pseudonyms rather than their real names on the blog, but apparently they weren’t doing a great job with the whole anonymous blog thing since by the time I stumbled across the blog 2 or 3 years ago the “PEW” (their acronym for “Psycho Ex Wife”) had apparently already discovered it. Not surprisingly, she had some objections to the way she was being characterized in the public domain.

I know NOTHING about the reality of these people’s real-life custody situation, or their respective abilities as parents. And neither did anyone who read this blog, cheering on the man and his current wife in their ongoing and dramatic battle with his “Psycho Ex Wife.” In fact, what we were reading at the PEW blog was a totally one-sided depiction of one of the most painful things that a family can endure – divorce with child custody disagreement. But even assuming that every single word these people wrote about his ex wife were true, and that she really is a vindictive, incompetent pain in the ass to deal with, that still does not, in my opinion, make it acceptable in any way for this father and stepmother to have created an entire online brand devoted to publicly complaining about her.

I’ve written before – as openly as possible – about the missteps I made in blogging and publishing material related to my own painful divorce nearly a decade ago. I definitely learned from my mistakes, and I’ve shared them in order to maybe help another blogger from repeating them. But although I did publish a few things I later wished I had not, I would never have DREAMED of creating an entire online persona or brand around bashing and insulting my children’s father. And unfortunately, that’s exactly what the couple behind the “Psycho Ex Wife” blog and online community had done and were doing before a judge apparently stepped in.

According to the She Posts feature, a family court judge ordered the blog shut down after the children’s mother asked the court to review the parents’ current custody arrangement. Although She Posts apparently did not attempt to obtain comment from the “Psycho Ex Wife” in question, they did correspond with the stepmother who helped author and publish the blog. This woman states that, “The judge ordered this despite not actually holding a hearing …She allowed no opportunity for testimony to be heard.  She allowed no opportunity for evidence to be presented.”

Again, we are operating on very little real information here, and it all comes from one party to the dispute, but frankly, if I were a family court judge, and a parent had come to me and showed me that blog, as authored by my children’s other parent and his current wife, I would not really need any more information to order that it be shuttered.  It would be a Res Ipsa Loquitur issue; in other words – the thing speaks for itself.

The job of a judge in any child custody dispute is to put the children’s needs and interests first. And while She Posts has characterized this as a free speech issue, I don’t see it that way. Family court judges very, very frequently issue orders forbidding one parent from saying anything ugly or negative about the other parent in any format or location that could be overheard or encountered by the children. I’d say that a public blog with the sole purpose over several years of complaining about the other parent over and over and over in the nastiest possible way qualifies as a format and location where it’s reasonable to assume that the children could be exposed to it – on their own or via comments made about it to them by others.

As parents, our right to free speech does not extend to the right to harm our children. For example, if I were continually screaming obscenities and insults at my children, their father – from whom I am divorced and with whom I share custody –  would certainly have the right to ask a family court judge to order me to stop doing that. And the judge likely would order me to desist. Also, parents sometimes just need to police themselves. In other words, just because one has a RIGHT to publish something online does not meant that one SHOULD publish it.

The couple behind “Psycho Ex Wife” are fighting back. According to She Posts, they are appealing the judge’s decision, and they have launched a new site, “Save The Psycho Ex Wife,” in which they are collecting donations for a legal fund to fight the judge’s order.  They claim on the new site that as long as both the father and the mother “monitor the children’s computer usage,” there is no way the kids who happen to be in the middle of this mess will be exposed to their father and stepmother’s online publishing.

So what do you think? Is this a free speech issue or a parenting issue? Is there any question in your mind that a father and stepmother publicly referring to their children’s mother as “Psycho Ex Wife” is inappropriate and potentially harmful to the children? Is this couple correct that as long as the kids’ computer usage is “monitored,” they will never be exposed to the site? Or do you agree with me that the intent and content of such a blog and online community is so potentially damaging to the children that the judge did the right thing by mitigating any possible risk that the kids would see it? Talk about this blogging brouhaha in the comments below.

UPDATE: I read the judge’s order in its entirety, and it appears that the woman in the couple involved in publishing and defending Psycho Ex Wife is not legally married to the father, so is not actually the children’s stepmother. I encourage you to read the judge’s order for yourself before leaving a comment.

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