May A Court Order Prohibit “Bad-Mouthing” Your “Ex” On Social Media After Breaking Up?
Yes. Throughout my career as a family law attorney, I have observed New Jersey laws evolve along with technology. Ranging from divorce and child custody cases to domestic violence matters, posts on social media websites have become powerful evidence for lawyers to present to judges of the Family Part of the Superior Court of New Jersey. Such posts can be used to prove a plethora of behaviors spanning the cause for a divorce (i.e., pictures with a paramour) to child neglect and even terroristic threats. Furthermore, what your “ex” expresses about you on a social media platform, especially when children are involved, can generate high emotions and serious problems ranging from embarrassment (especially considering the wide scope of people that social media reaches) to fear for one’s (or your family’s) safety and well being. Moreover, with more and more children on social media, it is clearly not in their best interests to be watching their parents “go at it” for all to see.
Therefore, the lawyers at my law firm have taken steps in cases wherein the parties agree that it is not in anyones’ best interest to have the other making disparaging, public comments on the internet. It is essential that both parties stipulate to such an arrangement to become a court order. This is because a judge cannot order such an arrangement due to a legal theory known as stare decisis (i.e., precedent). However, your attorneys may still draft language that would achieve the goal of neither “ex” disparaging the other on social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. Specifically, you may have your lawyer prepare a Consent Order that would memorialize such an agreement. Once the terms of the consent order are finalized, the judge assigned to your case shall execute the Consent Order and it then becomes law. Consequently, if the other party violates the consent order, you would have the right to have your attorney file a motion with a New Jersey Family Court to enforce your litigant’s rights, sanctions and attorneys’ fees in connection with the application.
Below, please find sample language that I have included to achieve the goal of peace between too people after a messy break-up:
WHEREAS this matter having been opened to the Court by way of Consent Order by the parties, _______________, Esq., attorney for Defendant, ______________, and _______________Esq., attorney for the Plaintiff, __________________;
WHEREAS in the interest of settling this matter without incurring the time and expense of litigation and trial, the parties are willing to enter into an agreement containing a consent order resolving _________________;
IT IS on this _____________ day of _____________, 20___, ORDERED as follows:
For purpose of this Order, the following definitions shall apply:
- “Computer” shall mean any desktop, laptop computer, tablet, handheld device, telephone, or other electronic product or device that has a platform on which to download, install, or run any software program, code, script, or other content and to play any digital audio, visual, or audiovisual content.
- “Covered information” shall mean information from or about either Plaintiff or Defendant, including but not limited to (a) a first and last name; (b) a home or other physical address , including street name and name of city or town; (c) an email address or other online contact information, such as instant messaging user identifier or a screen name; (d) a telephone number; (e) a persistent identifier, such as a static Internet Protocol (“IP”) address, a mobile device ID, or processor serial number; or (h) any communications or content that is transmitted or stored through either Plaintiff or Defendant’s website(s), computer, or other internet activities.
- “Domain name” shall mean the part of an internet network address that identifies it as belonging to a particular domain.
- “Domain” shall mean a realm of administrative autonomy, authority or control within the Internet.
- “Internet” shall mean the global communication network that allows computers worldwide to connect and exchange information.
- “Online” shall mean any form of electronic communications controlled by or connected to another computer or to a network
- “Podcast” shall mean any digital audio file prepared and distributed over the internet.
- “Social media” shall mean any form of internet publication, electronic service or account, or electronic content, or presence that allows interactive communication, including, but not limited to videos, still photographs, Internet forums, text or video blogs, social networks, Internet websites, and wikis. Examples of social media includes, but are not limited to, Facebook, podcasts, Twitter, instant and text messages, email, online services or accounts, YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat.
- “Website” shall mean any location connected to the Internet that maintains one or more pages on the World Wide Web.
- “Wiki” is defined as any online website that allows collaborative editing of its content and structure by its users.
- IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that both the Plaintiff and Defendant, without admitting liability or waiving any right, remedy or defense in this action, shall, within fourteen (14) days of this agreement, remove from the website, computer, podcast, social media, or other device connected to the internet, any and all covered information relating to Plaintiff or Defendant that might currently exit on any website, computer, podcast, social media, or other internet location within either Plaintiff’s or Defendant’s control (this one may be optional because while any negative posts should certainly be deleted, if the parties’ have children there may be family memories that should be preserved).
- IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Plaintiff and Defendant, without admitting liability or waiving any right, remedy or defense in this action, directly or indirectly, will refrain from posting any covered information relating to the Plaintiff or Defendant on any website, domain, computer, social media, wiki, podcast, or other internet location within either Plaintiff’s or Defendant’s control.
If you face this type of situation, your inquiry to our law firm is invited.