It’s time for a ‘Digital Divorce’
In 2018, more than ever before, social media is being used as evidence in Family Law proceedings. When I first started practice, evidence was occasionally provided in the form of damning letters, emails or text messages. Nowadays, it is much more common and comes in so many more forms: Facebook, Messenger, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Blogs, WhatsApp…and I’m sure many more that I’ve never even heard of! It’s time for a digital divorce. Keep reading for my top tips for separating yourself from the dangers of social media while going through a family law matter.
Things to avoid on social media if you have separated (or are likely to in the future):
Assuming it is private
Just because you aren’t connected with your ex on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Snapchat etc., and/or have high security settings, don’t assume they won’t see what you’ve posted. These things have a way of getting back to your ex (and to the Court). You should assume that anything you post, or comment on, can and will be used against you in a dispute.
I know you might be angry with your ex, and need a place to vent, but social media is not the place to do it, particularly if you have kids. This includes commenting on other people’s posts, posting in groups, posting inappropriate photos, sending private messages, etc. If you are about to post something that could offend your ex in any way or be used against you: just don’t! Before you hit the button, think to yourself, What would the Judge think if they were seeing this? Because chances are, if you end up in Court, that is exactly who will be reading your posts (along with the lawyers, your ex, the child experts etc).
Just because you didn’t originally write that post, say that quote or create that meme, doesn’t mean it can’t be used against you. True, you may not have written the words my ex is a deadbeat (for example) but if you just shared someone else’s post or tweet that says exactly that, or hit like on someone’s post, tweet or picture that says the same, you may as well have said it yourself.
Had a glass of wine and think it would be a great time to tell your ex what you really think of them? Trust me, it’s not. Texting and emailing are just as bad (if not worse).
Sometimes posting on social media is not only unwise, but it could be a criminal offense. Under section 121 of the Family Law Act, if you publish an account or part of proceedings that identifies parties to a dispute, or a witness, you may be found guilty of an offense, with the possibility of imprisonment. My recommendation – if you are involved in a family law matter that is in Court, do not post ANYTHING about the case or the people involved.
The golden rule: If you don’t have anything nice to say, DON’T: say, write, post, like, comment, tweet or share it! Get a digital divorce.
Have you posted something you shouldn’t have?
Contact us for advice about how this may impact your family law matter.
This post was originally published on 25 January 2016 and has been updated as at July 2018.
By Kasey Fox, Farrar Gesini Dunn Lawyer.