Social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and even professional networking sites such as LinkedIn are increasingly changing the way family law matters are conducted in Australia. While social media helps us keep in touch with family and friends it can also mean that personal/private information is easier to access and potentially available for use by a party to family law proceedings.
Now it is possible to find hidden assets not through hiring private investigators, as was common in the past, but through ‘mutual friends’ from Twitter and Facebook.
Equally you may be photographed in compromising situations with your children present, or when you were supposed to be taking care of your children, or you may post photographs of you and your children in a location explicitly prohibited by Court Orders. In each of these situations (and many more) your online presence and postings could seriously prejudice your family law case.
How does this apply to you?
Your former spouse’s tendency to indiscriminately publish information online may benefit your case, but remember that the obverse situation applies to you, and that your former spouse or their solicitor may well be monitoring your online presence, acquisitions and activities. Remember too that any information published on social media sites is potentially accessible to everyone (even on the most private settings) and may be very difficult to permanently remove.
Social media and children
Social media and technologies like Skype and Snapchat are a great way for separated or divorced parents to keep in touch with their children. However, using Facebook or Twitter to express your support for a particular arrangement for the children may be seriously detrimental to your case. Recently, the Family Court refused an Application by a Father for an order that the Mother and child be returned New Zealand. One of the factors informing the Court’s decision to refuse the Father’s order was that he had agreed with the Mother on Facebook that the child should live with the Mother.
Denigrating your spouse online is a very bad idea. Posting comments such as “useless father” or “hopeless loser” clearly demonstrate to a Court the absence of a cooperative parenting relationship and an unwillingness to promote a meaningful relationship between the children and BOTH parents. Facebook is also often a forum for more serious verbal abuse between former partners, all of which may be admissible in court proceedings and of course potentially available for your children to access.
How should you behave?
Resist the urge to respond to unconstructive or denigrating online comments whether made by your former partner, or a member of his/her family. Don’t be deceived into thinking you can safely maintain two Facebook pages, one of which is devoted to “family fun”, the other being dedicated to denigrating your former partner to him/her, or to your family and friends. Remember, it will be very hard for your solicitor to minimise or eliminate the prejudice to your case if evidence of this kind of behaviour is before the Court.
This is general information only, and does not constitute specific legal advice. If you would like further information in relation to this matter or other legal matters please contact our office on Freecall 1800 609 945 or email us now.