In the age of social media, the courts have had to implement new tactics to police an individual on these sites. Although, they may seem private, these social media accounts are filled with evidence that may be submitted to a court and may result in civil or criminal punishment. A recent case provides for an example of how your social media actions can affect your divorce proceedings and criminal liability. Speak to a divorce attorney to ensure you understand the regulations regarding your social media presence in relation to your divorce in order to avoid court involvement or punishment.
In many divorce or child custody cases, the judge will order the parties to refrain from making disparaging remarks about one another. In the present case, the Judge specifically noted “neither parent shall disparage or threaten the other parent on social media.” Although remarks are generally regarded as verbal statements, a court in Pasco County Florida found a “like” of a Facebook post may constitute disparaging conduct. In this case, a photo of the wife was posted on a father’s rights Facebook page and captioned “Mothers who abuse their kids.” The husband did not post this photo or formulate the caption. Instead, he “liked” it. For this “like” the husband was found to be in criminal contempt of a court order, and sentenced to county jail for 60 days.
Although some areas of the law have grown to account for these social media platforms, others are slower to take action. For instance, in criminal cases, jurors are told to refrain from searching social media pages for information, or posting about the case. Now in civil cases, with this ruling it is clear that they are expanding upon the ramifications that social media may have on a case. Further, this case allows for a great deal of action to be classified as speech, such as simply “liking” a post.
It is important when entering a divorce of family law action, you remove yourself from your social media platforms, or approach them with extreme caution. Do not post information about your case, your spouse, join groups, or like posts that can result in a negative connotation. Whether you are writing a post, liking a picture, tweeting, or posting a photo, almost all of your actions can be taken into account by the court, and in extreme cases can result in a contempt action and time spent in jail.
Outside of the connection social media platforms may provide, it is imperative to recognize how your actions on these sites can result in criminal and civil penalties. Discuss your social media presence with your lawyer and ensure you are protected.
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