Social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and TikTok have becoming increasingly popular. They have become an accepted part of modern life. However, what happens when people who are going through a relationship breakdown take to social media? Often the outcomes are negative and can be highly detrimental when it comes to Family Law.
Social Media as Evidence in Family Law
Social media platforms provide a public view into a person’s life. This may have significant implications in the course of a Family Law matter. It is common for public social media posts to be used as evidence in family violence, property settlement, spousal maintenance and parenting matters.
- Abusive messages posted or sent via social media are often used as evidence of family violence.
- Social media posts about item purchases or recent holidays may have implications for both parties to provide full and frank disclosure of their finances.
- Social media posts about potentially criminal activity could result in criminal charges and have drastic implications with respect to considerations of children’s safety in a parent’s care.
If you have recently separated or if you are considering separation, it may be wise for you to review your privacy settings on your social media accounts, or for you to reconsider how often you use social media accounts pending resolution of your Family Law issues.
Social Media and Prosecution
It is important to note with reference to section 121 of the Family Law Act 1975, that the publication or dissemination of any part of a Family Law matter or proceeding is an offence which may be punishable upon conviction by imprisonment of no more than 1 year.
The Court prioritizes the confidentiality of all parties during a separation, particularly given the high levels of emotional and conflict that sometimes follow a separation.
In doing so, the Court wishes to protect not only the parties, but also the potential harm caused to children.
Further, it is in the public interest for the Court to preserve the integrity and impartiality of the Courts and the judicial system, particularly in the highly discretionary jurisdiction of Family Law.
Can Social Media be good?
In our experience, social media can be used appropriately in situations where there are low levels of bitterness and acrimony between the parties. In circumstances where the parties are amicable and where they work collaboratively together in the best interests of their children, social media may be used as a tool to communicate as well as to share information. This may be helpful for children as they adjust to life post-separation.
However, it is important to note that a ‘positive’ approach to social media post-separation requires cooperation and a level of trust between parties.
Privacy for Family Law Issues
Generally, it is best to limit your use of or refrain from using social media particularly whilst working through Family Law issues.