22 Aug Social Media in Family Law Court Cases
Use (and abuse) of social media is becoming more prevalent in court cases including in family law cases.
Evidence in Court Cases
Evidence obtained via social media is becoming increasingly common in family law proceedings. Evidence obtained from sources such as Facebook and Twitter can sometimes provide beneficial (and conversely sometimes very damaging) evidence for parties. Whilst this form of evidence is predominately used in parenting proceedings, financial proceedings and child support proceedings can also be assisted by social media evidence. Here are some examples of how social media can be used for you or against you.
Social media revealing someone’s true financial position
A party may post messages and pictures on social media in relation to asset purchases such as real property, vehicles, jewellery or extravagant holidays. In circumstances where a party asserts they have limited financial resources to pay maintenance or child support, or as as property settlement consideration, social media evidence may be used in an attempt to convince the court otherwise.
If one party claims a reduced capacity to earn an income due to limited employment opportunities, posts on sites such as LinkedIn may be useful. However relying on the LinkedIn profile alone may not be enough. The LinkedIn profile may be presenting a rosier picture of the employability of the party than the reality of the situation. It may just show they are good at exaggerating their abilities rather than show they have a good job and good income.
Bad backs and other reasons not to work can be caught out
If one party asserts they are in poor health which limits their ability to earn an income and posts social media pictures and posts demonstrating a contradictory lifestyle such as sport and physical activities, this may be used to attempt to rebut the party’s claims of poor health.
The party claiming ill health may however be able to rebut these claims by producing medical reports which, as sworn evidence, would most likely hold more weight than the sometimes exaggerated postings people make on social media.
Advance warning of relocating children out of the state
If one party is intending to relocate with the children without the consent of the other party, it may come to the attention of the non-relocating party through a social media post. Or if one party is intending to breach orders by not returning children to the parent with whom they live, this may also be disclosed on social media. Such evidence however needs to be taken in the full context of the user’s posts overall when shown to a judge.
Evidence of bad parenting
Denigrating the other party or other people relevant to the child and/or the proceedings on social media unfortunately continues to happen a lot. If one party uses social media to denigrate the other parent, that evidence is often used against them as evidence of the authors own unsuitability or lack of insight.
If one parent’s lifestyle puts into question their suitability to parent evidence of this may be sourced from social media. Drug consumption or excessive alcohol consumption may be evidenced on social media and put before the court as evidence of suitability.
Threats against the other party (or their family) posted on social media may be used both in family law and intervention order proceedings.
Is there such a thing as privacy?
Short answer is no, not if you are posting online about yourself. It is very difficult (some may say impossible) for social media to ever truly be private. If you are in the middle of a separation or divorce it is important that you do not in any way discuss on social media your family law proceedings or documents filed in the proceedings, or make any comments about the Judge, the Family Report writer, the other party’s legal representation or any other people involved in the case. Once it’s posted, it’s in the social media universe and can be difficult to control and can be extremely damaging to your case.
Where do I stand?
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