These days, the first sign of a marriage breakup may come by way of social media. On sites like Facebook, when a married individual changes their relationship status on their web page to "single," it is a clear indication that divorce may be imminent. More and more, Facebook is making its mark on divorce cases in Hampshire and Hamden counties in Massachusetts and throughout the country. One current proceeding in a Midwestern state bears mentioning not only for its impact on divorce proceedings but also for the potential constitutional issues involved.
A civil protective order was granted to a wife, the basis for which was not disclosed. Thereafter, the husband was accused of violating the order by posting purportedly abusive and annoying comments about his wife on his Facebook page. The husband says his wife was blocked from access to the page and does not know how she was able to view the comments. He asserted his right to free speech, but the judge disagreed. What was unusual, however, was the punishment ordered by the court.
The magistrate hearing the case directed that the husband spend 60 days in jail for violating the protective order. Alternatively and in lieu of jail, he was ordered to apologize to his wife by posting a prepared statement on his Facebook page every day for a month. The husband agreed to publish the apology. He claims, though, that the court is barring his comments on one hand, but forcing him to make stipulated comments on the other. He believes the court order violates his constitutional right to free speech.
The case will continue to work its way through the courts, and further proceedings are scheduled for March 19. The husband admits frustration with his upcoming divorce and his desire to see his son. Here in Massachusetts, litigants to matrimonial proceedings would do well to focus on the road ahead. Those that spend the time to educate themselves about divorce law and procedures in our state may have a better chance of achieving the equitable resolution they desire.
Source: Fox4kc.com, "Divorce + Facebook = MESS," Michelle Pekarsky, Feb. 24, 2012