Zuba & Associates, P.C.

Facebook post finds its way into divorce proceedings

Illinois couples going through a divorce may want to moderate their social media comments in light of a recent court ruling. A man was recently punished by a court after his estranged wife complained about one of his Facebook posts. The husband was venting about matters pertaining to his own child custody and divorce case.

Although the man had blocked his spouse from access to his Facebook page, she managed to view a picture and comments that apparently related to the divorce. The wife brought the post to the court's attention, claiming that the post was meant to be abusive and harassing, as well as in violation of an existing civil protection order.

The judge agreed with the wife and declared that the post violated the protection order. The judge then gave the man a choice: apologize to your spouse or spend 60 days in jail. But the required apology was not ordinary, as the judge said the man had to post a prepared apology on his Facebook page every day for a month or risk the jail term.

The ruling has some legal commentators wondering about the extent of the court's powers. Some say the ruling infringes on an individual's right to free speech under the U.S. Constitution.

The husband also argues that his freedom of speech is being violated. He compared his initial Facebook posting to having a drink at a bar and talking about his divorce with friends. Although a Facebook post could potentially reach a lot of people, he notes that none of his friends on Facebook are necessarily required to read his posts and nor was his estranged wife.

The man argues that the ruling, which was handed down in Ohio, not only wrongfully prevents him from saying what he feels, but also forces him to say something against his wishes and contrary to his feelings.

As Illinois residents know, divorce is an emotional experience. In the modern age of e-mails and social media communication, some divorcing spouses may forget that many electronic communications are preserved and subject to a subpoena under certain circumstances. Whether or not those circumstances are appropriate in divorce or child custody proceedings depends upon the particular circumstances of a given case. Individuals who are concerned about such matters would do well to explore all of the legal options for ensuring that a marriage is equitably dissolved.

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

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