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Divorcing Spouses Can't Bad Mouth Each Other to Employers in TN

When anyone files for divorce in Tennessee, there are several injunctions that go into effect immediately. Neither spouse may transfer or destroy marital property. Neither spouse may cancel insurance policies or allow the policies to lapse through nonpayment of premiums. Neither spouse may move the children from the state of Tennessee or more than fifty miles from the marital residence. (In cases of domestic abuse, the victim may ask the court to waive this restriction in an expedited hearing.) These are common restrictions that most states impose to protect the integrity of the divorce proceedings.

Tennessee, however, has one further restriction. Section 36-4-106(d)(3) of the Tennessee Code Annotated prohibits either spouse from “making disparaging remarks about the other” to either spouse’s employer. This is a highly specific restriction that many other states do not impose.

What Remarks Are Prohibited

The statute prohibits “disparaging remarks.” Courts usually interpret this under a standard dictionary definition of remarks that are derogatory. Tennessee, like other states, prohibits spouses from making derogatory remarks about one another in front of their children. This is a sensible precaution that prevents either parent from trying to impair the child’s relationship with the other parent.

But why prohibit disparaging remarks to the spouses’ employers? The goal here is to prohibit either spouse from jeopardizing the other’s employment. But in practice, this ban can become highly controversial.

The Controversy

A recent case illustrates the situations in which there is a legitimate reason for disparaging a spouse to his or her employer. The Tennessee Court of Appeals recently reviewed a case in which a wife claimed that her husband - an officer with the Memphis Police Department - physically abused her, then convinced his colleagues not to investigate the case. The wife sent a lengthy email to the mayor, laying out the problems she had experienced with the police department. She also posted about her grievances on Facebook.

The judge presiding over the divorce case ordered the wife to remove her Facebook post. She declined, protesting that she had submitted the case to the FBI and would continue to expose the corruption she believed to exist within the police department. The judge held her in contempt of court and ordered her to be taken into custody until she deleted the post (and apologized to the court). After four hours, the wife removed the post, and her contempt charge was purged from the record.

As you can see, the court held the wife to the strict standard of no disparaging remarks - even against the important goal of exposing bad practices within the Memphis Police Department. This shows how vigilant divorcing couples must be about not disparaging one another to their employers. It should be noted that the injunction is only in effect during the pendency of a couple’s divorce case. Once the final divorce orders have been issued, all temporary injunctions are lifted.

Experienced Murfreesboro Divorce Attorneys for Family Business Matters

There are many complications that can arise due to temporary injunctions in a divorce case. By consulting with an experienced Murfreesboro divorce lawyer at the start of your case, you can save the time, money, and heartache associated with contempt charges and improper court orders. Call (615) 890-1982 or contact us online to schedule your free case evaluation at Dotson and Taylor.