You’re probably thinking “how on earth are family law and Facebook related?”
Well, as I’m sure you’ve seen, when a relationship is strained (as it inevitably is in family law proceedings), it is not uncommon for the parties to publicly air their dirty laundry on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. At Farrar Gesini Dunn, we are increasingly seeing the use of social media in family law matters.
With an increase in online and electronic forms of communication, status updates, photos and other material can easily become available to a party to family law proceedings. If you are upset, angry, or intoxicated, online posts without forethought can come back to bite you. These new forms of evidence are now being taken seriously in the family law courts. A number of decisions have dealt with evidence obtained from Facebook and other social media sites.
For example, in one case, the Judge looked at MySpace communications between the parents and concluded that the mother’s communication did not show that there was a relationship of mutual respect and minimal conflict and he refused to make an order for the children to live equally with both parents.
More recently, there was a case where the father referred to his family law proceedings on his website, and included the names of the parties and other identifying material. He also published the names and photos of some of the lawyers involved in a list of “corrupt legal professionals“. The Court did not look kindly upon this and issued orders requiring the father to remove the material from his website. The Judge noted the “particularly insidious” nature of the act and that the publication of material online is quite different to the once-off publication of material.
If you are (or may be in the future) involved in a family law dispute, you need to think very carefully about the use of social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and forums, etc. If you are posting on these sites, you need to assume that what you post may be used against you: the courts are now more willing than ever to allow social media communications to be put forward as evidence in family proceedings. These are complex issues and you need a specialist family lawyer to assist you.
If you need further information, would like some legal advice in relation to your situation, or just want to come in for a chat, contact one of our experienced lawyers at Farrar Gesini Dunn to discuss how we can help you.
By Jessica Kennedy