You have a “no contact order” or a restraining order against you, taken out by an old romantic partner. You know that it means you can’t call them, go to their home or go visit them at work. They worried for their safety — even if you know you’d never harm them — and they got the order to force you to keep your distance. Fine. That’s not hard to do.

But what about online communications? Say you send them a Facebook message on their birthday, wishing them a happy birthday. Does that violate the order? What if you don’t even send them a message, but you just write on their wall, along with dozens of their other friends? Is that a violation?

It is. Courts have had to answer this question as the internet has become more mainstream over the years, and they have determined that this type of online communication is illegal when facing a no contact order. You may think you’re following the order and keeping your distance, but the court may not agree.

It’s important to understand this. Maybe you were just trying to mend the fences, and you thought that a well-intentioned birthday message would help. You didn’t mean to break the order or harass them. Yet, that may be how they took it, and you may find yourself suddenly facing legal charges for something you did not know was prohibited in the first place.

If this happens to you, the ramifications are real. You need to understand all of your legal defense options and exactly what steps you can take to protect your future.