Ex-Husband Alleged Defamatory Comments About His Ex-Wife

In Dickson v. Dickson, 12 Wash. App. 183, 529 P.2d 476 (1974), cert. denied, 423 U.S. 832, 96 S. Ct. 53, 46 L. Ed. 2d 49 (1975), a Washington court enjoined an ex-husband from making defamatory comments about the ex-wife due to the present threat of emotional harm to the ex-wife, and the clear threat of detrimental emotional effect on the children. In the Dickson case, the ex-husband asserted similar arguments, specifically that the injunction denied him rights of free speech. The Dickson court found that First Amendment rights are not absolute. Id. at 186, 529 P.2d 476. This finding has ample support in New Jersey case law as well. New Jersey courts have consistently recognized that the "best interests" of the children can be made paramount to other fundamental rights. In Dickson the Court of Appeals of Washington found that "in addition to the indirect effect this will have on the children because their mother will be upset, there will be a direct effect on them through damage to the reputation of their family and to their feelings about their mother." Ibid. Therefore, in balancing the equities, the Dickson Court held that the interference with the ex-wife's privacy and the children's well being outweighed the ex-husband's absolute exercise of his First Amendment rights. Id. at 188, 529 P.2d 476. The Dickson Court held: Many of the things that Mr. Dickson did were naturally very upsetting to Mrs. Dickson and threatened her emotional health. It would be naive to assume that Mrs. Dickson's unhappiness did not have a harmful effect upon the minor children and on Mrs. Dickson's ability to raise them. the effect upon their mother could not help but to embitter the children toward their father. Id. at 189, 529 P.2d 476.