Social Media and Family Law - Just Don't Do It!

Recent years have seen a dramatic increase in the use of social media.  It has been reported that if Facebook were a country, it would be the most populous nation on earth. 

Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Skype, Instagram and many others now all facilitate instant communication between users.

When used responsibly, social media can be a useful communication tool for separated parents.  It allows the parents and their children to easily and effortlessly communicate and exchange photos when they are not able to be together.  In fact it is becoming more common for this type of communication between parent and child to be included in parenting orders.

On the other hand, irresponsible use of social media by one or both parents can cause many problems for separated couples.  One parent posting negative comments or photos of any kind about their ex-partner can have a detrimental effect on their family law proceedings.

In a matter of just seconds these posts begin circulating and can be viewed by many people.  Once posted on the internet, all control of the post is lost.  Even if the author deletes the comment or photo it may already be too late.  The comment or photo may have already been copied or saved by someone else and the damage done.

It is not uncommon for parents involved in family law proceedings to frequently include in their affidavits any negative and damaging messages, emails, text messages and photos received from their former partner via social media.  These days, Family Law Courts are generally willing to accept social media material as evidence

Section 121 of the Family Law Act states that it is an offence to publish any information or images which identify a party or child involved in family law proceedings.  If found guilty, a person may be fined or imprisoned for up to 12 months.

In the 2013 case of Lackey and Mae [2013] FMCA fam 284, the parents of four children aged between 5 and 14 years had been in high conflict for some years.  One of the judge’s findings was that messages posted on Facebook by the father and his family were denigrating of the Court and staff who participated in the case.

The judge ordered that the children live with the mother and spend time with the father. 

Obviously, it is imperative that parents are aware of what they post on social media in relation to their ex-partners and/or their family law proceedings to ensure that they do not adversely affect their matter or find themselves in breach of the Family Law Act.   When in doubt – don’t!

Gordon Garling Moffit Lawyers