Separating from a husband, wife or partner is often one of the most difficult times in a person’s life. Separation can cause heightened emotions in one or both of the parties and unfortunately sometimes this can cause people to vent those emotions across social media, email and text with their former partner.
It is important to keep in mind that once something is on the Internet, it often leaves a digital footprint and can be hard to erase. Social media platforms are most often public and accessed easily and screenshots are easy to take. This means that emotive responses can be used against a person in family law proceedings.
It is critical that all parties approach social media and texting with caution and think before posting. Here are some examples of how people have got it wrong, so you can get it right:
- In 2011 a father sent his 10 year old son a text message saying “I want you taken off your useless mother” after having retained (without agreement) the son’s siblings. The same father, in 2013 posted a variety of comments to Facebook including “My kidnapping trial is supposed to start tomorrow. What a [expletive deleted] joke” and making a variety of allegations about the mother. All of these texts and posts were used as evidence before the Court and the Court found that this action demonstrated the father having an inability to appreciate that his children may be able to access the Facebook page and how those comments and text messages may affect the child.
- In 2013 a father posted a comment to Facebook about his family law proceedings, it is included the words “I reckon the Court system sucks to lock me up because I went to see my daughter” and also made comments about the proceedings. Evidence of his postings was put to the Court and the Court found that the father had an unsatisfactory attitude to the responsibility of being a parent.
- In 2014 a father made a post on Facebook which not only disparaged the Judge hearing his case (including naming the Judge) but also the mother’s legal representatives. The post used colourful language and was used as evidence of the father’s attitude towards the mother, the proceedings in general noting a propensity for “emotional immaturity”.
- A mother was criticised for posting photos of her children on Facebook visiting her at a supervised contact centre, despite the children being upset and embarrassed by these photos. The Court found it demonstrated a lack of insight on the part of the mother. The mother’s Facebook posts were also used in making a finding that she had used drugs despite her denials.
The above examples are only a snapshot of ever increasing instances where social media posts have been used as evidence against a party to family law proceedings. To avoid ending up as an example, consider these suggestions:
- Remember that social media is public, easily accessible and screenshots are easy to obtain.
- Consider how a post or text might make the other person and/or children feel if read by them.
- Stop and think before pressing “send” or “post” and don’t write while emotional.
- Don’t over share – airing dirty laundry publicly is almost never going to assist in any way.
Finally, it is important to keep in mind that posting on social media may constitute an offence under section 121 of the Family Law Act which sets out a restriction on the publication of court proceedings.
Alternatively, for the best practice approach, keep Facebook for what it is intended – Game of Thrones spoilers and videos of cute puppies. Seek advice about family law proceedings from an experienced Family Law solicitor.
If you are separating and need assistance, please do not hesitate to contact our office on 9523 5535 to make an appointment to meet with our Accredited Specialist in Family Law to consider the direction of your matter.