“Liking” a Social Media Post Can Result in Jail for Florida Ex-Spouses
It is becoming increasingly clear that the law has difficulties reacting to the rapidly-changing social media landscape. This is true for every legal practice area, and recent news reveals that Florida family law is no exception.
Florida Ex-Spouse Held in Criminal Contempt for Liking a Photo on Facebook
In a recent Florida divorce, a Pasco Circuit judge ordered the two parties to refrain from disparaging or threatening one another on social media. A week after this written order was issued, a photo of his ex-wife surfaced on a father’s rights Facebook page with the title of “Mothers who abuse kids.” The ex-husband then proceeded to “like” the photo, which prompted swift action from Pasco Circuit judge Lauralee Westine.
For liking the photo, the ex-husband was sent to county jail for criminal contempt. Criminal contempt, for clarity’s sake, occurs when a party fails to comply with a court order such as the one issued by the Pasco Circuit judge. Criminal contempt can be either direct (in the presence of the court itself) or indirect (outside of the court’s presence. Indirect criminal contempt — such as the ex-husband’s Facebook like — is addressed in Rule 3.840 of Florida’s Rules of Criminal Procedure.
Attacking Ex-Spouses on Social Media Is Unwise in This Changing Legal Landscape
As social media continues to evolve rapidly, a steadfast and unchanging principle is that attacking an ex-spouse online is unwise. Divorce is often contentious, but this is no excuse for attacking an ex via social media or saying untrue things. More importantly, making such statements in an impassioned heat of the moment can have dire consequences, as the Facebook like case reveals.
In that case, the ex-husband was sent to jail for 60 days, although the judge ultimately showed him leniency and he did not serve the entirety of the 60-day sentence. Even so, as social media continues to intersect with law, there continues to be a lack of clarity on key social media and law issues.
This clarity will come in time, as evidenced by the Florida Supreme Court hearing a case that may define the legal meaning of a Facebook friendship. Until more legal clarity is achieved regarding social media’s impact on Florida family law, however, the best course of action is for spouses to use extreme caution when posting to social media. In fact, it is best to avoid liking or posting anything that could remotely be construed as applicable to your Florida divorce altogether.
If you have questions regarding a Tampa divorce lawyer, or are unaware as to the terms and conditions in, talk to, and retain, a family law attorney who can help. Contact Damien McKinney of The McKinney Law Group to discuss your case further. He can be reached by phone at 813-428-3400 or by e-mail at [email protected]