Author: Lara Wentworth, Partner & Head of Family Law
Think twice before you post: How you can avoid the dark side of social media during your family law proceedings.
When it comes to family law proceedings, more and more often personal information found on social media is being used as evidence in Court.
When used responsibly, social media can be a great tool for keeping in contact with loved ones, sharing life events and improving communication over long distances. However, there is also a dark side to this platform. If you are currently in, or thinking about commencing legal proceedings, then it is important to understand that social media has the potential to not only be detrimental to your case, but may also find you in breach of the law.
User beware: Online behaviour can have negative consequences
During a family breakdown, it is not uncommon for social media to be used as a platform to vent or complain about the other party and their parenting skills, or lack thereof. There is also an increasing trend on social media to denigrate others or “blow off steam” about a particular situation. It is this online behaviour that can have a negative impact in a family law case.
Some people do not consider that social media posts will be used as evidence against them in a family law proceeding. Social media activity can indeed be used in Court and as previous case law has demonstrated, can be harmful if classified as disclosure documents that must be presented to the Court.
Cases such as Gilkes & Lenton  FMCA fam 775 and Bolton & Whittaker and Anor  Fam CA 286 both used evidence from Myspace and Facebook accounts to support the facts that one of the parties was not fostering a positive relationship of mutual respect and communication. This ultimately contributed to the judge’s reasoning against those parties.
What we have learnt is, even if the allegations made on social media are true, it’s not necessarily what you put online, but the intention behind what you have put online that matters.
Risk of a breach of the law
Not only can the production of these documents in a case negatively affect your chances of success, they could also find you in breach of the law. Section 121 of the Family Law Act makes it an offence to publish anything that identifies any specific information in family law proceedings. This offence may be punishable by imprisonment for a period up to one year.
The Court found in Lackey and Mae  FMCA fam 284 that the father had denigrated the Court, the Independent Children’s Lawyer and the mother as well as breaching Section 121 by publishing details about his proceedings. The Court made orders that prevented the father from publishing any more information as well as an order for the Australian Federal Police to monitor his social media accounts for a period of two years. If found in breach of these orders, the father could face prosecution under Section 121.
Be mindful on social media
These cases demonstrate that it is important to be mindful of what you put on social media. Posts, photos and comments, once online, are very hard to erase from the internet. Other people may share or save your social media activity, therefore it can become very difficult to control what is online once published.
At Veritas Law Firm we recommended that you exercise caution, or cease use of social media completely, during family law proceedings to avoid any negative consequences of your activity and eliminate the risk of a breach of the law.
If you have any questions relating to this article or if you need to speak to an expert about family law, please contact Lara Wentworth, Head of Family Law at Veritas Law Firm on 02 9687 9993 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Veritas Law Firm produced this article. It is intended to provide general information in summary form on legal topics, current at the time of first publication. The contents do not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Formal legal advice should be sought in particular matters.