Social media has changed the way we communicate and is an integral part of how people connect in today’s culture.
The use of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, WhatsApp, Snapchat and other social networking sites and smartphone applications is second nature for many people.
According to the 2017 Sensis Social Media Report, 79% of Australians are active on social media and over a third of users check their accounts five times or more per day.
While social media is a great enabler in business and connecting people and communities, the way we use social media can also create negative consequences, especially during a family law dispute.
Digital content can be admissible as evidence
When something happens in our personal or professional lives – good or bad – we typically want to share it with our family and friends.
Routinely we turn to social media, networking sites and digital communications such as emails and text messages to post comments, update our profiles and share photos and videos.
Sometimes, we do this with little consideration of the consequences. In the context of a family law dispute, digital content can be admissible as evidence to a court of law, so long as it’s legally obtained.
And if the digital content uploaded by either party is in contradiction to what they’ve stated as true in legal documents it can lead to potentially serious ramifications and at the very least question the party’s credibility.
Social media content that can impact a family law dispute
We should always be careful about what we post online but for people going through family law disputes, they must be extremely careful to ensure their social media activities don’t unnecessarily jeopardise the potential outcome.
The type of social media content that can create issues during family law disputes are:
- Sharing private and confidential information about your spouse, children, or the court case.
- Posting complaints or adverse comments about your spouse or children.
- Updating your feed with news of a pay rise, recent lavish purchase, or an upcoming holiday when spousal support and maintenance, the division of assets or a property settlement is being contested.
- Posting photos that disclose dangerous, risky, and anti-social behaviour when your case involves child custody matters.
- Updating your status to reflect a new partner when you are not yet divorced.
- Sharing provocative images of yourself online.
It’s also an offence under section 121 of the Family Law Act to publish anything which identifies a party, child or witness involved in family law proceedings before a court, including by social media. This can lead to severe criticism by a judge or charges being laid.
How to use social media during a family law dispute?
Most experts in family law will advise their clients to do the following:
- Pause all social media accounts until after the court case is finalised. This will allow you to take your accounts offline without erasing anything.
- In the case you’re using social media to gather evidence, take screenshots and save files and documents but avoid actively contributing.
- Where you need to maintain access to social media for work or school, avoid partaking.
- Check, and where necessary update, your privacy settings across all your social media accounts.
- Refrain from publicly discussing, venting, commenting on or sharing confidential information about your spouse, children, or the court case.
- Don’t post, tweet, share or put anything online or in a text message or email that you wouldn’t want the judge to read.
Speak with a family law expert to find out what social media content and digital information can lawfully be used in your family dispute case.