Social media and family law- be careful what you post

Social media has transformed the world and the way we communicate online, and it is often easy for people to forget that a much broader audience than what you intended could see and hear what you have to say online.

Sometimes parties involved in family law matters publish details of their separation or family law disputes online. However, it is best to avoid publishing any information whatsoever relating to your matter, as it may have unintended consequences.

There are two main ways in which posting, on social media about your dispute, can negatively impact your matter:

  1. Your posts on social media can be used as evidence in your matter; and
  2. Your post may constitute a breach of Section 121 of the Family Law Act.

Evidence in your matter

Social media posts showcase what people do on the weekend, and some of this behavior may not be conducive to your family law matter. For example, posting about excessive alcohol intake when you are involved in a parenting dispute can be seen by your ex-partner (or given to your ex-partner by a third party). Your image or post, if inappropriate, can then form evidence against you as an example of behavior that is not child focused.

Any post involving excessive alcohol use, drug use or reference to domestic violence or mental health issues can also be used as evidence against you, as can the comments you make about your ex-partner.

If your social media posts can be accessed by your children or accessed by a third party who may show your children, it is clearly not in the best interests of the children to see their parents’ dispute displayed publicly online and may have negative ramifications on their health and wellbeing.

If you are involved in financial matters and post images displaying an extravagant lifestyle or engaging in reckless spending, these can also be used as evidence in your matter and your ex-partner may assert that you have more available funds than what you have disclosed.

Section 121 Family Law Act

If you are involved in a family law proceeding currently before the court and you post about the proceedings or about the other party involved on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram you are breaching Section 121 of the Family Law Act.

Section 121 of the Family Law Act prohibits publishing anything that may identify a person connected to the proceedings. This can be any information that identifies the person to which the post is about, including but not limited to:

  1. Names;
  2. Addresses including both home and work;
  3. Physical descriptions;
  4. Employment status; and
  5. Any property the person may own.

Anyone who breaches Section 121 of the Family Law Act is guilty of an offence, and the maximum penalty is 12 months imprisonment.

In relation to posting details of your family law matter, regardless of whether there are proceedings currently on foot, it is best to keep any details of your matter away from social media. You should not post anything in relation to the proceedings, any identifying information or anything derogatory about your ex-partner on social media.

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