The use of social media platforms and sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok comes as second nature for the majority of us. Sharing updates, feelings and other personal information on social media have become the norm for many people, especially when one is going through a particularly stressful time. A lot of the time, we freely share information without even thinking of the potential consequences they may have which brings us to today’s topic -- how does social media impact Family Law proceedings? In this article, we look at the impacts of social media on Family Law and how something as simple as a status post on Facebook could have a major impact on divorce proceedings. Read on to find out more.
Digital Content As Admissible Evidence
Before the days of social media, most aspects of Family Law were based on a matter of he-said, she-said. Thanks to social media and our innate desire to share much of our lives online, digital content can now be used as evidence against you in Court. Evidence in the form of photos, videos, social media posts and comments are increasingly relied upon in 2021 to prove certain facts in the Family Law Courts. Additionally, personal or instant messages can also be called upon as evidence in your case, which is why it is always advised for individuals to be cautious about messages sent, comments made or information that is shared to the public on social media. More often than not, digital evidence has the potential to do a lot more harm than good, so think twice before you decide to send off heated messages to your spouse as they just may come back to haunt you.
Content That Can Impact A Family Law Dispute
Another important thing to consider is the impact that the content you post can have on a Family Law dispute. Aside from messages, comments and photos, there are a number of factors that could possibly jeopardise the outcome of your case, including:
Disparaging or slandering your partner and/or children.
Sharing private and confidential information about your spouse, children or case.
Posting content that discloses risky, and anti-social behaviour when your case involves child custody matters.
Sharing sexual/provocative photographs of yourself online.
Screenshots of private messages.
Publish content that identifies a party, child or witness involved in Family Law proceedings - a direct violation of section 121 of the Family Law Act.
Social Media VS Parenting Orders
If your case involves child custody matters, your digital footprint matters more than ever. Parenting orders are made by a Court in the ‘best interests’ of a child and a primary consideration, is the protection of children from harm or family violence. As such, in cases where child safety is disputed, photos, videos or social media posts that show a parent acting violently or recklessly may be used in Court. Comments on social media that are of a threatening nature may also be used as evidence against you/your partner.
Spousal and Child Maintenance
After separation or divorce, one spouse/parent may be required to provide spousal and/or child maintenance to help the other party support themselves and any children involved financially. In most cases, the Courts will decide upon who is responsible for maintenance after a thorough assessment of both parties’ financial status. In some situations, the party who is responsible for providing maintenance may claim hardship or outright fail to make their payments. If this is the case, evidence found on social media of holidays, parties, and new homes/cars can be used as evidence when resolving such issues. In other words, if you claim hardship but your social media profiles paint a different picture, you may be penalised and any agreements with your former spouse would be a breach that could lead to enforcement proceedings.
Tips For Using Social Media During A Family Law Dispute
Pause all social media accounts until after the Court case is finalised.
Avoid posting private or personal information about your spouse, children or case.
If you are using social media to gather evidence, be sure to take screenshots and save files and documents. Avoid actively contributing.
Don’t post, tweet, or share anything online that you wouldn’t want the judge to read -- this includes emails and text messages.
________________Looking to find out more about the impact of social media on Family Law proceedings. Speak with one of our family law experts to find out how digital information can lawfully be used in your family dispute case.