One of the biggest changes in society over the last 20 years has been the rise of social media such as Facebook and the sharing of our personal lives with others. Social media has been a great benefit and enjoyed by practically everyone who has a mobile phone, computer and internet access.
Social media however also has its downside.
What you post may not be as secure or private as you think. Those unwise words written in the heat of the moment about your former spouse, have a tendency of making their way into family law proceedings.
Social Media in Court
The following are examples of what courts have considered in family law proceedings:
- Text messages, messages sent via chatting apps such as Viber or Whatsapp;
- Photographs of parents engaging in unsafe activities which their children;
- Abusive comments about the other party;
- Photographs showing the other party engaging in expensive activities or holidays when they are claiming to be financially struggling;
- Photographs of the children on holiday when the other party claims the children are unavailable because of school commitments;
- Abusive or disparaging comments about the other party by family members.
Law against publishing family law court proceedings
Many are not aware that it is also against the law to publish anything about family law proceedings which could identify any of the parties, (see s121 of the Family Law Act 1975). This includes posting anything on social media or elsewhere. Parties are able to seek an order from the court to prevent the other party from posting such material. This can make family law proceedings increasingly expensive and bitter.
Some words of advice
Here are some suggestions when you next get the urge to post something when you are in the middle of a family law dispute:
- Never post when you are angry. Take a deep breath, consider what you are going to write, think again and then don’t post.
- Never post about anything that is occurring in a proceeding.
- Whenever you post, expect that a Judge will read it. Consider what a Judge would think of your post after they have read it. If a Judge would consider it negative, do not post.
- Make sure that you have updated your privacy options so only those people you wish to communicate with, can see your post.
- Never post anything which is abusive or rude about your spouse.
- The simplest advice is do not post at all.