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Can your Facebook posts be used against you in family court? – Kidspot

Nina Young | April 27, 2017 | Article originally published on Kidspot

constance hall and billWhat you post on social media and online overall can come back to haunt you, as some people have learnt the hard way.

Social media has given us the opportunity to share more than ever before with our family and friends. It’s an amazing way to keep up to date with our loved ones and it’s also a great way to make new connections in the world.

No one has harnessed the power of social media more than bloggers, and mum bloggers have some of the biggest followings. We love to get an insight into their lives – and they are happy to share. But when does all that sharing become a problem?

Very public ‘uncouplings’

Popular bloggers such as Constance Hall are big on sharing all of their relationship details and private family lives online. Constance has shared the ups and the downs of life with her husband Bill – from their wedding, right down to their separation.

Can your Facebook posts be used against you in family court? - KidspotUnfortunately, relationship breakdowns are often messy and more and more couples are coming to learn that even posts made online at a time of love can be used against you when that love runs out.

It’s important to remember too, that once you put something out into the world, it isn’t very easy to take it back. Deleting a post does not mean it’s completely gone.

Can a Facebook post really be used against you in court?

Kidspot asked solicitors Nicole Sloane and Jenna Thirtle from Family Law Matters for their thoughts.

“Parents really do need to be careful about what they post on Facebook as these posts can be used as evidence in a parenting matter, depending on the contents of course,” Jenna and Nicole said.

“This extends beyond Facebook to all social media platforms including Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat as well as online dating sites and applications including those such as eharmony and Tinder.

“Ultimately, social media platforms are public forums and depending on privacy settings, whatever is shared on these sites forms part of the public domain and can often be accessed by anybody at any time.”

A growing problem

To quote Judge Warwick Neville, social media “is a veritable ‘Aladdin’s Cave’ which parties (and lawyers) readily and regularly explore for (invariably incriminating) ‘evidence’ to be used in litigation”.

Solicitors and judges are facing the problem of social media and other online behaviour affecting the outcome of family court cases on a daily basis. So what exactly are the ‘danger zones’ of posting that could find you in trouble later on?

Alcohol drugs or even inappropriate language and gestures

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Picture: Kidspot

It might seem fun to let loose on Facebook or Insta after you’ve had a couple of drinks, but keep in mind it might not seem so funny when you sober up and find it being brought up in a family court case as evidence that you are an unfit parent.

It seems out there, but it has happened. The solicitors from Family Law Matters told Kidspot of a family court case from 2013 when a mother’s posts on Facebook were  relied upon to assess the mother’s involvement with illicit drugs.

Threats

This should go without saying … But don’t threaten your ex. Don’t even jokingly threaten them. It’s illegal and it very much can be used against you in Family Court (if not criminal court).

Family Law Matters solicitors say: ” In a 2015 case, a father’s Facebook posts were found to be a deliberate attempt to intimidate the mother where he posted a person holding a gun. Further in a case one year prior in 2014, the mother relied on the father’s Facebook post of an image of a man assassinating a woman by shooting her and making her fall off a cliff to demonstrate that the father has no contrition or insight as to how such image could affect the mother.”

Anything relating to an ongoing family court matter

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Picture: Kidspot

Tempted to go online and have a rant about your ex while you’re going through family court? Step away from the keyboard. Do not hit post.

Section 121 of the Family Law Act 1975 prohibits anyone from disseminating any information to the public about a family court case that identifies:

(a)  a party to the proceedings;

(b)  a person who is related to, or associated with, a party to the proceedings or is, or is alleged to be, in any other way concerned in the matter to which the proceedings relate; or

(c)  a witness in the proceedings;

Confused? Basically it means you aren’t legally allowed to publicly identify people involved in a family court case. While this law is mainly applied to journalists and publications like newspapers, the law is pretty vague and include  “other electronic means”. Which means your Facebook update counts, and breaching that law could see you given a maximum punishment of a year in jail. Ouch.

Playing it safe

So what should you keep in mind when using social media and  going through a messy divorce or separation? Our friends at Family Law Matters have these tips:

1. Practice netiquette – parents need to keep in mind that social media platforms are public forums and anything published online can be accessed quite readily and by almost anyone. As such it is important that parents practice good netiquette when using social media, this includes when communicating with the other party. Ultimately people need to remember that it is very easy for people to simply screenshot a conversation and use that as evidence.

2. Think before you post – before making a post it is important to stop for a minute and think about the possible consequences of making said post before you do so. This is especially important to do when in the heat of the moment and acting in response to something.

3. Beware of oversharenting – parents need to be careful regarding the overuse of social media to share content based on their children, especially where the other parent doesn’t agree.

4. Supervise and manage your children’s use of social media platforms – it is important that parents take an active interest in their children’s social media use and what they are posting;

5. Be cyber safe and cyber aware – review your privacy settings, make sure all your accounts are private etc.

This is especially important in matters involving family violence. There have been several cases where parties have used social media to stalk or harass the other party or alternatively where a partner has hacked the other partner’s social media page.

For more information or to arrange a consultation with a Family Law Matters Solicitor please complete the contact form or call us on 02 9523 3007.