Schutz v. Schutz
581 So.2d 1290 (1991)

  • Laurel and Richard were married and had two kids. Then they got a divorce.
  • As part of the divorce decree, Laurel was awarded sole custody of the children and Richard got visitation rights, and had to pay child support.
  • Laurel moved several times without telling Richard where she was going. Richard lost track of the children for four years.
    • When he finally found them again he learned that Laurel had taught them to “hate, despise, and fear” him.
  • Richard filed numerous motions related to visitation, custody and support.
  • The Trial Court found for Richard. Laurel appealed.
    • The Trial Court found that “the cause of the blind, brainwashed, bigoted belligerence of the children towards the father grew from the soil nurtured, watered and tilled by the mother.”
      • That’s known as parental alienation.
    • The Court ordered Laurel to “do everything in her power to create in the minds of the children a loving, caring feeling toward the father.”
      • The Court threatened Laurel with contempt, imprisonment, and loss of custody.
    • The Court found that Laurel was not protected by the 1st Amendment when she badmouthed Richard to the kids.
  • The Florida Supreme Court affirmed.
    • The Florida Supreme Court found that a custodial parent has an affirmative obligation to encourage and nurture the relationship between the child and the non-custodial parent.
    • The Court applied a balancing test of Laurel’s 1st Amendment right to free speech against the compelling government interest in the well being of the parties’ children.
      • The Court found that on balance, the State’s interest outweighed Laurel’s freedom of speech.
  • It may sounds silly to order a spouse to not bad-mouth another spouse, but remember, if there is evidence that the bad-mouthing continues, the court has the ability to throw them into jail for contempt!