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Facebook & Family Law - A Good or a Bad thing?

Jun 4, 2015

Unfortunately, it is not uncommon when a relationship breaks down for things to become bitter between exes, leading to harsh words often being said by one, or both of the parties to the other.

While venting to family or friends about your matter is normal and unlikely to get you into trouble, venting on social media such as Facebook and/or Twitter may well prove to be detrimental to a person involved in a family law matter.

It is now becoming increasingly common in family law matters for posts on Facebook to be used as evidence in Court and the Court asked to make a negative finding against the person who made the post.

For example, posting derogatory posts on Facebook such as calling your ex a “loser” or saying that he/she “is a deadbeat parent” may be used by the non-posting party to demonstrate  to the Court a person’s inability to promote the other parent’s relationship with the children and/or an inability to co-parent co-operatively.

Specific examples of where using social media has been detrimental in family law matters include:

  • A case where Court Orders required a father to spend time with his child at his home during contact visits.  However, the father then posted a photo on Facebook of himself and the child at the beach.  Suffice to say, the photo was used in evidence to prove the father had breached the Court Orders.

  • A case where a father brought an application seeking that the mother and child be returned from New Zealand to Australia.  The court refused the father’s application as the father had said to the mother on Facebook that the child should live with the mother.

Posting comments and/or photos on Facebook can also result in more serious consequences over and above a Court making a negative finding against someone.

For example, in a recent Western Australian Court decision, the estranged wife was found guilty of 3 counts of defamation for publishing posts on Facebook about her estranged husband. In this case, the wife was ordered to pay the husband $12,500 by way of damages and was ordered to pay his legal costs. 

A further example is if a post on Facebook or Twitter identifies someone who is a party in proceedings before the Family Court or the Federal Circuit Court in breach of Section 121 of the family law Act 1975. (Under this section it is an offence to publish any material that may identify a party to the proceedings).

On a positive note, there have recently been occasions where the Court has permitted Court documents to be served on a person via Facebook. This is particularly useful in circumstances where a party is purposely hiding or avoiding service but it can be shown to the Court they are regular users of social media.

So, what should you take from the above?

If you use social media, keep in mind that anything you post may be used as evidence in Court.  

If the particular post could be used to your detriment, do not post it.

To obtain advice regarding your family law situation, contact Carlene Prentice at Davoren Associates to discuss the matter further.