Published: 28 May 2018
Author: Ryan Carlisle Thomas

Why social media and family law do not mix

It is now widely accepted that social media (including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) is a part of our everyday lives. The next time you are out for dinner look around and you will probably see half of the patrons of the restaurant with their mobile phones in their hands. While social media can be a great way to catch up with friends and family it can be a very dangerous tool in a family law context. It should always be remembered by the parties in a family law dispute that anything that you post on social media may be used as evidence against you in Court.

The breakdown of marriage or relationship generally causes the parties involved intense emotional stress. In general, posting information on line when you are highly stressed and emotional is not a good idea. It may even be wise during this time of high stress and heightened emotion that parties withdraw from using social media all together.

My experience as a family lawyer has taught me that individuals are much more likely to post some vile nasty message to their partners on line than say it to their former partner’s face. It is important to realise that threatening and violent messages posted online are regularly used as grounds for one party to seek an Intervention Order against the other.

If in doubt, do without

In custody disputes as a family lawyer I have been involved in disputes between separated parents regarding what photos of their children should or should not be posted online. My advice to clients is if in doubt, do not post the photograph.

Social media posts can also frustrate attempts to reach an agreement between the separating parties via negotiation. In property division cases each party is required by law to make full financial disclosure of their financial position. 

If one party posts photos of themselves holidaying at an expensive resort or with a new expensive chattel this can lead the other party to question whether they have more funds than what they have admitted to. Likewise, in a child custody dispute where one party posts photo of a child with their new partner. Such social media posts can act to frustrate negotiations. 

Social media content can impact family law proceedings

It is a really bad idea to post negative or disparaging statements about your former spouse online. Such statements can only act to harm all involved. Firstly, any children caught in the middle of the dispute will suffer; Secondly such statements can be used as evidence against you in Court; Thirdly it will make on going joint parenting of any children difficult; and Fourthly it may give the receiving party grounds to apply for an Intervention Order. As the old saying goes “if you can’t say anything nice, then do not say it at all”.

It is also worthwhile considering that essentially once something is posted online it is there forever and this means that one day your children may see it. In summary, the parties in a family law dispute should avoid social media like the plague.

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