An individual's First Amendment rights and the need to protect victims has grown increasingly complicated with the usage of social media and blogs. In family court matters, social media can be a source of help when it uncovers clear evidence of a party's wrong doing. On the other hand, it can present serious dilemmas when litigants post information that is defamatory, or maybe even puts the other party in danger. Things get even more complicated when individuals get creative through blogs and personal accounts in which they change names, or tweak certain details to make it look like they're talking about someone else.
For example, let's say an angry wife starts a blog about her divorce. She posts inflammatory, unflattering accounts of her husband, except she calls him by a different name. Still, she gives many personal details about their lives that clearly indicate she's talking about her husband. He puts up with this until she starts talking about their children, and maybe how she should just take off with them because her husband is abusing them. At this point, the husband decides to take action, though his choices are limited. The police can't step in unless there's a restraining order or a direct threat. But the family courts, they usually have more latitude in these situations. The question is, what exactly can they do? More importantly, would they be violating the wife's First Amendment rights by doing anything at all?
To clarify, she has a right to blog about her feelings and experiences. And she can even call her husband some unflattering names and get away it. However, does she have a right to ruin his reputation in a way that compromises his employment? Does she have a right to bring their children into it, on a public forum where they may come across the article or have it forwarded to them? Even if she insists she changed the names, if it was easy enough to figure out who they were, should that at least count as negligence on her part?
The courts may very well think so, and enforce legal measures such as directing the wife to leave her husband and children (by any names) out of her blog. Similar cases have been though the NJ courts, and the argument that it's a violation of the poster's freedom of speech hasn't worked very well. Now, if they're taking away a person's right to post or blog at all, that would be a problem. But imposing restrictions, especially in the children's best interest, is within the court's discretion. The takeaway here is that it's best to keep your divorce private, and only discuss it with divorce-related professionals and close, trusted loved ones. Even after your divorce, certain information can be seen as going against your children's best interests. While we understand the temptation of venting and outing someone in public, the possible consequences can be quite damaging when it comes to serious issues like custody and property division.