06 Jun Social Media and Family Law
Social media and family law: The impact on parenting proceedings
One increasingly popular form of evidence in parenting proceedings is that which is obtained via social media. Evidence obtained from sources such as Facebook and Twitter can sometimes provide beneficial (and conversely sometimes very damaging) evidence for parents. Social media and family law is a delicate mix. This type of evidence can often be used for the following reasons:
To show intention
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. Copies of these posts may be useful to annex to affidavits which will be read by the judge in the case.
It is important to remember that social media needs to be considered in context. For example, if the resident parent has posted that they intend to relocate with the children, be sure that you didn’t agree or like that post if you wish to oppose the relocation using social media as evidence of the other party’s intention. By the same token, producing a social media post six months old expressing an intention to relocate as evidence in support of an urgent application to restrain relocation, may not assist your application, especially if there is also evidence of an ongoing social media dialogue between the parties since that post.
To show suitability or unsuitability of one parent
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.
Denigrating the other party or other people relevant to the child and/or the proceedings on social media, sadly is a common occurrence. If one party uses social media to denigrate the other parent, that evidence is often used against them as evidence of the author’s own unsuitability or lack of insight.
Threats against the other party (or their family) posted on social media may be used both in family law and intervention order proceedings.
Inconsistencies in sworn evidence and credibility
Social media may be used to counteract the other party’s evidence. For example, if alcohol consumption is an issue in a particular case and one parent has sworn they haven’t consumed alcohol for six months, a Facebook post in which they make comments about being intoxicated and includes a photo of them consuming alcohol from the previous weekend may be used to raise question about the credibility of their evidence in the proceedings.
Social media may be used as evidence of relationships between parties to the proceedings and other relevant individuals. If parenting arrangements are made between parents via social media, those communications may also be used as evidence of the historical contact arrangements between parents.
Welfare of children
Children’s social media pages may be relevant when the court is considering the welfare and wishes of the child.
Social media can be a beneficial source of evidence however it can also be damaging for your case. It is important for clients to be advised that they should not in any way discuss their family law proceedings, 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 on social media. Even if they think their account is ‘private’ and only their friends and family can access their posts, invariably the evidence will end up in the hands of the other party and possibly in front of the judge.
Try to keep your social media under control during family law proceedings
In general, is it important to be moderate in your social media activity even before court proceedings are commenced. Expressing your anger, frustration or disappointment at the other parent over social media may seem acceptable to you, however in a courtroom, it may be described as disparaging behaviour, or even worse, as family violence. Once it’s posted, it’s in the social media universe and can be difficult to control.
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