First Amendment Rights An Issue In Facebook Divorce Post Case

When a family court judge told a man he must post a public apology to his estranged wife on his Facebook page or go to jail, divorce attorneys and free-speech experts began questioning whether or not this is a First Amendment issue.

The man opted to post the apology as required by the judge. The apology mentioned his objection to the courtroom opinion that posting his rant about his divorce was a violation of a restraining order, and it stated the issue was under appeal.

His Facebook rant was about supervised parenting time with his son; the apology explained that he had only visited the boy one time during a four month period. In his previous public post about visitation, he suggested that his ex had withheld visitation privileges. He blocked her from viewing that post, but she received it via friends who did see his message.

At issue with free-speech advocates and attorneys are First Amendment rights and if the court decision to make this man post the apology on Facebook violates his freedom. The judge agreed with the wife and her lawyers that the public rant violated a protective order and had caused her harm.

The husband was found to be in contempt of that order due to his Facebook posting and given an ultimatum of either posting a public apology for 30 days on Facebook or going to jail for 60 days. The judge further ordered the man to pay back child support and any lawyer fees his ex had incurred because of this posting issue.

Family law attorneys suggest that people remember that social media can impact all areas of their lives, including divorce issues. Being careful about any public messages on social networking is a good idea for anyone, regardless of their marital status.

Source

USA Today: “Ex-husband gets choice of jail or a Facebook apology,” Kimball Perry, Feb. 23, 2012