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What Happens When Judge Sends Litigant Facebook Friend Request?

Posted on in Divorce

We've all read the warnings by legal experts about watching what we post on social media sites, especially when involved in litigation, such as a divorce or child custody battles. But the Orlando Sentinel recently reported on one woman's experience when she ignored a Facebook friend request she received - from the judge who was presiding over her divorce case.

Seminole County Circuit Judge Linda Schoonover had heard the divorce case involving 49 year old Sandra Chace but had not issued a ruling when she sent Chase a friends request on Facebook. Chase immediately told her attorney about the online communication and he advised her to ignore the request. Chase followed her attorney's advice and although she didn't reject the friend request, she just didn't respond to it.

Shortly thereafter, when the judge issued her decision, Chase was ordered to pay her ex-husband $4000 per month in alimony, an amount Chase's attorney called excessive. She was also ordered to pay her ex-husband's legal fees.

Following the judge's ruling, Chase's attorney filed a motion requesting that Schoonover recuse herself from the case. She refused to do so. Chase filed an appeal on the divorce decision and also filed a formal complaint against the judge. The Fifth District Court of Appeal recently ruled on Chase's case. In their opinion, the judges wrote: "It's not clear what being a "friend" means on Facebook. Sometimes people ask near strangers to be their Facebook friends." However, the court wrote that it was inappropriate for Schoonover to send Chase a friend request because judges aren't supposed to communicate with litigants in a trial. "The trial judge's effort to initiate ex parte communications with a litigant is prohibited by the Code of Judicial Conduct," wrote the court. The appeals court has sent the case back to Schoonover ". . . to issue a new opinion consistent with this opinion. We trust that the issuance of a formal writ will be unnecessary." If you are considering filing for divorce, you should consult with an experienced DuPage County divorce attorney to make sure your rights are protected during what can be a very complicated and confusing process.

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