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NJ Woman Sued for Penning Insults on Alimony Checks

A New Jersey woman who wrote disparaging remarks on the memo line of the alimony checks she sent to her ex-husband is being sued for intentional infliction of emotional distress. The Daily Record reports that Diane Wagner, 57, wrote the terms “loser,” “bum,” and “adult child support,” as well as an acronym for a hostile phrase containing profanity on the checks that she sent out weekly.   

Her ex-husband, Francis Wagner, 61, receives Social Security disability and reportedly suffers from cancer and a bad heart. His attorney filed a lawsuit in Morristown, New Jersey, claiming the nasty notes had exacerbated Mr. Wagner’s poor health. Mrs. Wagner is also undergoing treatment for cancer.

Intentional infliction of emotional distress is a tort, or civil injury, for which a victim can demand monetary compensation. The plaintiff must prove four elements:

  • The defendant’s conduct is intentional or reckless.
  • The defendant’s conduct is extreme and outrageous.
  • The conduct is the cause of emotional distress for the plaintiff.
  • The plaintiff’s emotional distress is severe.

The law sets a high bar when evaluating whether conduct is “extreme and outrageous.” The court considers whether the behavior is “so outrageous in character, and so extreme in degree, as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency, and to be regarded as atrocious, and utterly intolerable in a civilized community,” according to the Restatement (Second) of Torts section 46 cmt. d (1965). It is not enough if Mrs. Wagner’s conduct is judged to be “mean-spirited.” Mr. Wagner also faces a challenge in proving his emotional distress comes from nasty comments directed toward him, rather than from his cancer diagnosis and treatment.

At Jakubowski, Robertson, Maffei, Goldsmith & Tartaglia, our family law attorneys understand the pain of divorce and the resentment that can come from an adverse court ruling. However, we caution our clients to conduct themselves as maturely as possible during and after divorce proceedings. A divorce should free you to focus on your future. Being trapped in a post-divorce altercation with your ex is too much like being trapped back in a bad marriage, only with legal fees.

For reliable divorce guidance that allows you to move on with your life, contact an experienced attorney at Jakubowski, Robertson, Maffei, Goldsmith & Tartaglia.

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