In recent years, the explosion of social media has opened up various avenues for people to voice their views and opinions on a variety of topics. While some social media platforms are very public others, such as Facebook, allow users to set privacy perimeters to essentially control who can and cannot view their information and posts. For one man facing a bitter divorce, an angry rant posted and shared with select friends nearly landed him in jail.
A recent controversial ruling by a judge concerning a post made by a husband against his wife has many wondering what role social media will play in future divorce proceedings. The husband, frustrated by a bitter divorce and child visitation battle, posted some negative comments about his wife on this Facebook page. The man’s wife had previously filed criminal charges against her husband which were cleared, but a civil protective order was in place.
The wife did not have access to the man’s Facebook page, but learned of the post and claimed it violated the protective order which bared her husband from doing anything to cause her “to suffer physical and/or mental abuse, harassment, annoyance, or bodily injury.”
A judge found the husband in contempt and gave him the option of either serving 60 days in jail or posting an apology to his wife via Facebook page for 30 days. To avoid jail time, the man opted to post the apology to his wife.
While the content of divorcing couples’ social media platforms have recently been called into question for matters related to proving infidelity, this is one of the first instances where a disgruntled spouse’s opinion has been called into question. Many are shocked by the judge’s ruling and the apparent infringement of First Amendment free speech rights.
As the rules around allowing evidence obtained through social media platforms continues to take shape, this case serves as a reminder to divorcing couples to be wary of sending or posting any negative or defamatory information about their spouse in emails or online.
Source: USA Today, “Ex-husband gets choice of jail or a Facebook apology,” Kimball Perry, Feb. 23, 2012