(CN) - A New York author violated her divorce agreement when she wrote about her autistic adult son, a state appeals court ruled.
Caren EE. divorced Alan EE. in 2002. Their son gained media attention for his work as a visual artist.
The divorce agreement stipulates that "any books or movies dealing with [the son] or his artwork" were to be contracted through both parents.
Caren wrote a book in 2012 about a medical disorder that she feels is present in her son and often is not diagnosed in other autistic children.
Alan asked for an injunction to prevent Caren from "making bookstore, media or any other promotional appearances and/or engaging in any profit-driven enterprise related to [the son's] health condition."
The trial court denied his injunction, but the Albany-based Third Department New York Appellate Division partially overturned the decision in a ruling written by Justice Elizabeth A. Garry.
While she agreed with Caren that the book is about the medical disorder and not solely about her son, she still found that the book violated the divorce decree because it "deals with" her son and his condition.
"The book makes dozens of references to the son, albeit under a pseudonym, and includes biographical information, specific accounts of his medical diagnoses and treatments, and many detailed anecdotes describing his experiences and behaviors," Garry wrote on behalf of the court's four-justice panel.
She noted that the first chapter is entirely about the son, and only three of the nine chapters make no reference to him.
"Therefore, the wife breached the agreement as a matter of law by contracting for the book's publication without obtaining the husband's consent," Garry wrote.
She remanded the case to the trial court to determine the disposition of the book's proceeds and the amount of fees and expenses that should be awarded to Alan.
However, Garry ruled that Alan is not entitled to an injunction against Caren's promotion of the book.
Both parties agreed that the son could be harmed if he discovers the book's existence, and the trial court said that telling him about the book would be "a heinous act."
Garry ruled that an injunction against Caren's promotion of the book would not necessarily prevent the son from learning about it.
"It is now the ongoing existence and public availability of the book that poses the most substantial risk that the son may discover the book in the future, and - as the husband has never sought to withdraw the book from circulation - in simple colloquial terms, that horse has left the barn," Garry wrote.
She added that curtailing Caren's promotion of the book could violate her freedom of speech.
"Although she agreed that she would not contract for the publication of a book that dealt with the son without the husband's consent, she did not agree that she would never express her views about the son in other contexts," Garry stated.
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