Cheaters Beware – The Cyberstalking Statute Doesn’t Have Your Back!

Earlier in the month, one of my blogs discussed the Second District Court of Appeal’s interpretation of the cyberstalking statute. Now, the Second District Court of Appeal has reversed a cyberstalking injunction against a doctor’s wife for the alleged cyberstalking of her husband’s girlfriend. The facts underlying this case are yet another demonstration that the truth is often stranger than fiction . . . this one could have been on reality TV!

In this newest social media cyberstalking case, a doctor’s wife learned that her husband was having an 18-month affair with another woman. The doctor’s wife contacted the other woman by phone, by messages, and by sending “friend” requests on Facebook to tell her to stay away from her husband. None of these contacts bothered the other woman until the doctor’s wife posted once on a public blog called “She’s a Homewrecker,” disclosing the affair. Then, she claimed, she was afraid her children would find out about her affair with the married doctor. The trial court granted an injunction based on the blog posting.

In reversing the injunction against the doctor’s wife, the Second District reviewed the statutory definitions of several key words. Stalking means that a person “willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows, harasses, or cyberstalks another person.”   Harass means “to engage in a course of conduct directed at a specific person, which causes substantial emotional distress to that person and serves no legitimate purpose.”  Cyberstalking involves a course of conduct through “electronic mail or electronic communication, directed at a specific person, causing substantial emotional distress to that person and serving no legitimate purpose.” The Court also noted that two incidents of cyberstalking are required to grant an injunction.

The Court decided that the trial court correctly found that no stalking occurred up to the point of the blog post to the “She’s a Homewrecker’s” website, reasoning that the doctor’s wife’s contacts with the girlfriend served a “legitimate purpose” of telling the girlfriend to stay away from her husband, and that the evidence showed no substantial emotional distress to the girlfriend from these contacts. In considering the “She’s a Homewrecker” blog posting, the Court didn’t have to decide whether or not the blog posting served a “legitimate purpose” or whether or not the blog posting would cause substantial emotional distress to a reasonable person in the same position as the girlfriend.

Instead, the Second District reversed the injunction against the doctor’s wife simply because the blog posting was only a single incident of possible stalking, not the two incidents required to grant an injunction. The moral of this case:  Cheaters beware:  the Second District believes that a reasonable person who had an eighteen-month affair with another person’s spouse might very well expect to “hear the scorn “ of an angry spouse. Who could disagree?!

If you need legal advice regarding the stalking/cyberstalking statute or any other family law matter, contact an experienced qualified family law attorney for a professional consultation.

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