We live in a digital age where social media connects us all. Our friends have access to our pictures and sometimes our innermost thoughts. Combine this landscape with divorce or custody issues and disaster can ensue. All too often Facebook and texting become platforms to vent against the other spouse or parent. What recourse do you have when you spouse goes off on Facebook or via text messages?
Defamation ( i.e. slander, libel) covers any published or oral statement made to other parties that is false. So, if your spouse goes on Facebook and tells everyone you slept with the postman, this would be defamation. The trouble is that even if you win, damages are hard to establish. You can get an injunction preventing similar posts in the future, but your reputation has already been harmed. Defamation actions are usually not the best recourse.
California Family Code §§ 6203 and 6320 describes the circumstances that can give rise to protective orders and they include much more than physical abuse. They include verbal, telephonic or other harassment or disturbing the peace of the other party directly or indirectly.
Protective orders (also called restraining orders) are a helpful tool, which slap someone on the wrist and tells them to knock it off. The court will enjoin the party from acting in a similar way in the future. If protective order is granted, the court can also award attorney’s fees and costs of receiving the order—making bad behavior very expensive. If the other party violates the order, they can be held in contempt of court, have to pay fines, and depending on the order—end up in jail. Some protective orders can do other things, like order the custody of specific property, kick a party out of a house, change the custody of a pet, order one party to pay specific bills, or stay away from other family members. However, just like defamation actions, protective orders do little to make up for past harm. There are no money damages and what is done is done. There are four main types of protective orders and you need to choose the right one to apply for based on the circumstances.
Don’t Say Anything At All
Even if your spouse is a horrible person, saying bad things about them online or harassing them by text or phone can be considered abuse under FC § 6320. These comments can result in attorney’s fees, costs, loss of firearms, loss of a job, etc. So, if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.
For help finding a safe place to live in Ventura County please contact the Ventura County Coalition Against Household Violence at 805-656-1111
If you would need legal guidance regarding a restraining order, feel free to contact me at 805.876.4LAW