Social Media and Family Law – Be Careful!

01 AUGUST 2019 FAMILY LAW & DE FACTO RELATIONSHIPS
Social Media and Family Law – Be Careful!

The old principle of ‘if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all’ applies in every Family Law case. Especially on social media! In Family Law, everybody – including the Judge – is watching how you act, what you say and what you do. Your social media will be scrutinised and any posts you make may be used against you in your family law proceedings.

What does the law say?

Section 121 of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) says that it is an offence to publish specific information about family law proceedings that will identify the people or witnesses involved. 

However, what many parties do not often realise is that their social media accounts are not excluded from this rule.

How can your ex-partner use what you post on social media against you?

Parties to family law proceedings often trawl through their ex-partner’s social media accounts to arm themselves with as much evidence as they can to paint their ex-partner in the worst possible light in Court (i.e. screenshots of Facebook or Instagram posts, messages and photographs).

Cases in point

Here are some examples of how social media has been used as evidence and successfully relied upon during family law proceedings:

  1. George v Nichols[1] - The Father posted a cartoon stating “I typed ‘Bitch” into my GPS and guess what? I’m in your driveway…” on his Facebook page. The Court ordered that the Mother have sole parental responsibility for the child and that the Father spend no time and have no communication with the child as it was concerned that the Father “could not contain his poor opinion of the Mother” and that the child “would be likely to suffer psychological harm if required to spend time with the Father”. The Father’s use of social media was taken into account in the Judge’s decision, but was not the only consideration.
  2. Longford v Byrne[2] - After his Interim Application was not successful, the Father made a few posts on his Facebook page about the Mother. One post included a large photograph of the Mother and the children with “My name is Ms Longford. I am a child thief” written across the photograph. The Court restricted the Father from posting anything on social media that related to the Mother or the children and ordered him to remove any posts which met this criteria.  
  3. Mallery v London[3] -  The Mother denied she had a new partner but her Facebook relationship status was changed to ‘engaged’ and she had made a post about her ‘fiancé’. She had also written a post stating ‘…whatever looks better for me in Court”. The Judge in this matter inferred that the Mother would say anything in order to make her case look better whether it was true or not.

In a nutshell

Here are four tips to keep you out of trouble when your family law proceedings are on foot:

  1. Think before you post. If you would not be comfortable with a social media post being read out in Court, you should not be posting it in the first place.
  2. Never use your social media accounts to disparage, denigrate or say anything derogatory about your ex-partner or their family and friends.
  3. Do not mention anything that has happened in your Court proceedings on social media.
  4. Ensure that your privacy settings are up to date. You never know who is looking.

If you require legal advice about your particular circumstances, call Fox & Staniland Lawyers to speak to one of our family lawyers on (02) 9440 1202.

Written by Stefanie Costi

 

[1] George v Nichols [2016] FamCA 519.

[2] Longford v Byrne [2015] FCCA 2504.

[3] Mallery v London [2012] FMCAfam 145.