Social media plays a very visible role in our daily lives. We use it to keep in touch with family, friends, loved ones, business associates and even our religious communities. When going through a divorce, one party may use this platform to attempt to destroy the other’s credibility. In these cases, the individual that is the subject of these negative attempts may ask the court to help preserve their good name by requesting a non-disparagement agreement.
A recent court case delves into the legality of these agreements. It involves a contentious divorce with one party posting a running commentary about the breakup on Facebook, sharing with the couple’s religious leaders, family and friends. He called his future ex names, started a Go Fund Me page titled Help Me Keep My Son and made frequent disparaging remarks. The wife countered by seeking a non-disparagement order, which the court granted.
What is a non-disparagement order?
This court order may be used during contentious cases like the one noted above to keep a party to a divorce from making negative comments on public forums like Facebook and Twitter. Violations can come with serious penalties.
In this case, the man served with the court order fought back stating it was unconstitutional. The wife countered, stating there are situations when restraints on free speech are allowed. Namely, when the speech in question threatens serious harm to another. In this case, she argued that the free speech of her soon-to-be ex threatened serious harm to their child. Although the court agreed that the husband’s speech could cause harm to the child, it reasoned that this harm did not rise to the level needed to impede his free-speech rights. As a result, the court sided with the husband.
What does this ruling mean for divorce cases in Maryland?
Although case is from Massachusetts, it could signal a change throughout the country. it is important to note that those that find themselves in similar situations have additional options. A party that feels violated by the speech of a soon-to-be ex would also consider harassment or defamation charges.