The Dangers of Social Media in Family Law Disputes

The rise of social media is impacting various areas of law, particularly family law proceedings. While sharing a social media post may seem harmless, a recent Family Law Review found that 81% of cases accepted social media evidence. There is no denying that an impulsive post can seriously affect the outcome of your matter.

What Type of Social Media Evidence is Used?
Family law matters may use the following types of social media evidence:

1. Posts that are derogatory to the other party;
2. Posts that evidence explicit behavior, such as using drugs or drinking excessively;
3. Posts or screenshots of private messages which are relevant to the assertion that family violence has occurred;
4. Posts on holidays or purchasing expensive items, proving the actual financial position of the party; and
5. Posts or screenshots of private messages suggesting the party has contravened a court order.

So, how might this apply to a real-life example? In Reiby & Meadowbank [2013] FCCA 2040, the father’s bad behavior with drugs and alcohol presented in his social media posts was used as proof of his unsuitability to the parent. The mother in Edwards & Granger and Anor [2013] FamCA 918 was fearful of the father, presenting evidence of repeated threats to her life on Facebook. These scenarios prove that acting irresponsibly or violently will undoubtedly be used as evidence.

Does the Law Apply to Social Media?
Section 121 of the Family Law Act 1975 expressly prohibits parties from posting any part of a family law proceeding on social media. This includes any post which identifies:

1. A party to the proceedings;
2. A party who is related to a party to the proceedings; or
3. A witness to the proceedings.

In addition to adversely affecting the outcome of your matter, breaching this law carries a penalty of 12 months imprisonment.