Social media is popping up more and more in family law proceedings, so the results of a review of cases mentioning social media recently conducted by Family Law Review are interesting to note.
The paper reviewed 136 cases in family law proceedings between 2009 and 2014, looking specifically for references to a number of social media platforms. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the saturation take-up of Facebook in Australia, the majority (97%) of references in cases were to Facebook posts and messages, with more evidence relating to private messages than status updates or photo posts. The paper revealed that parenting proceedings dominated the use of social media evidence with 79% of mentions, while 21% of mentions were contained in property, interlocutory and child abduction proceedings.
The social media mentions were used for a wide variety of purposes. These included:
- as evidence of a party’s suitability to competently parent
- as proof that someone is engaging in drug or alcohol abuse
- to demonstrate that the other party’s home is unsuitable for children
- as evidence of family violence or threats
- as evidence of the intention of a party to relocate children or that consent to relocate has been given
- evidence of welfare of the child (for example where a child’s Facebook post suggested that he/she considered self-harm)
- to cast doubt on a witness’s credibility, for example by supporting an alibi or revealing an alias
“In one case, a father who said he had not gambled for some time posted a Facebook picture of a pile of casino chips with the caption ‘Robbing Star Casino 2011.”
However, people who made denigrating or derogatory comments about the other party’s ability to parent found it backfired: “this evidence was frequently used to show that they were unsuitable to parent”.
Not all uses of social media mentions were negative in flavor: in three cases social media was used as evidence of a parent’s good relationship with a child.
All of this serves as a useful reminder to beware of what you post on your social media as it relates to your personal relationships. Always follow the golden rule: if you wouldn’t feel comfortable with a judge reading it, don’t post it. And on the other hand, if you find your ex has made negative posts about you, this may actually be admissible as evidence against their suitability to parent. And please remember to keep your solicitors in the loop, should you experience any issues in regard to the use of social media that may influence your case. Call us at Alliance Family Law on (02) 6223 2400 to discuss this further if you feel it may apply to your situation.