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Should couples going through a divorce be wary of Facebook?

Monday, May 21, 2018

A man upset about his child custody and divorce proceedings took to his Facebook page last November to vent about the state of his divorce. Although his estranged wife was blocked from his page, she accessed the posting and comments from friends. The woman complained to the court, claiming the husband's actions were abusive and harassing. She also argued that the Facebook use violated a prior civil protection order issued in her favor.

The court agreed, and now the man must either spend 60 days in jail or post a written apology to her every day for 30 days on the very same Facebook page. While this ruling occurred in another state, those couples going through a divorce in Texas would perhaps benefit by recognizing the potential mishaps that can come with modern technology.

The man claimed he was frustrated about his divorce and merely used Facebook to vent to his friends. He said his use of the site was pretty much the same thing as having a drink with friends in a bar and discussing personal issues.

While acknowledging that Facebook reaches a potentially larger audience, the man argued that the social media site is just another way people can communicate about issues related to divorce. People who don't want to listen, he argued, can simply ignore his posting. But the judge saw it a different way, leading to the concededly unique sentence.

Some say the ruling is a violation of the husband's First Amendment rights. And the husband agrees, complaining that the court will not allow him to post his own thoughts on his own Facebook page, but instead forces him to say something he does not want to say and in a manner to which he objects. Legal observers indicated that, by forcing the husband to speak, the court may be violating the man's constitutional rights.

The case, which is pending in Ohio, goes back to court on March 19. While the ruling was made in another jurisdiction, those people who are going through a divorce in Texas might want to take note. Divorcing husbands and wives may want to be wary when taking to their Facebook pages to speak privately about personal matters. Statements made on social media sites and through other forms of electronic communication could end up as evidence in matrimonial or child custody litigation.

Source: fox4kc.com, "Divorce+Facebook = MESS," Michelle Pekarsky, Feb. 24, 2012

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