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Facebook can factor into domestic violence and divorce

Many Texas readers are aware that social media is becoming more and more prevalent in our society and that these websites and apps are also making their way into family law courtrooms across the nation. Facebook and other social media platforms have affected child custody arrangements and helped ensure the fair distribution of property between spouses who are going through divorce. One case highlights yet another way that Facebook can be brought into family court.

The case centers on a domestic violence claim between a woman and her boyfriend. The woman sought and received a protective order against the man. That court order prohibited the man from contacting his former girlfriend in any manner. Traditionally, contact would be defined as being in the immediate presence of the other party or making phone calls to that individual.

In the digital age, things have shifted. People can now make contact with one another through email, text messages and online posts. While this type of contact is not the same as more direct forms of communication, the courts are beginning to take note of the fact that even a text or social media post is a type of communication. In this case, the man went onto Facebook and "liked" as many as 22 photos posted by his former girlfriend.

When the matter went back to court, the judge found that the man's decision to make digital "comments" on his former girlfriend's photos constituted having contact with her. As a result, he was arraigned on charges of contempt of court for violating the protective order. While this case is an early example of how social media may begin to be considered by family courts, it is certainly telling about how the Internet and social media has changed the scope of divorce, family law and child custody cases in Texas and elsewhere.

Source: callawyer.com, "The State of Facebook and Family Law", Chandra Moss, Kristen Holstrom, Mary Melech and William Peacock, April 5, 2016

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