Social media has become integral to the lives of many people in such a short time. Whilst it is a great way to keep in contact with old friends or give updates on your life, some updates should not be shared on social media. When going through a divorce, screenshots of your Facebook or Instagram profiles, messages or photographs can be used as evidence in legal proceedings and are increasingly being relied upon.
Under Section 121 of the Family Law Act 1975, it is an offence to publish any material that may identify a party or a witness in proceedings before the Family Court or the Federal Circuit Court. This includes the names of children who are the subject of parenting proceedings. Penalties of up to one year imprisonment can apply for breaches of Section 121. While it may be tempting to vent about the way your family law matter is proceeding, doing so in public and online can negatively impact your case.
Posts that can be used in family court proceedings are;
- Screenshots of messages exchanged by text or messaging apps.
- Photographs of parents not acting safely with their children.
- Photographs of parents being out or on holiday when they told the other parent the child was unavailable for contact.
- Posts or screenshots of profiles showing derogatory comments about the other party.
- Posts or photographs at expensive restaurants, on holidays or at work conferences when a party is claiming to be financially struggling or not in paid employment.
- Tagged posts or comments made by family members and friends which are derogatory or mention you, the other party and the proceedings.
Being careful online is something that you should always practise but is particularly important when involved in family court. To protect yourself and the case, it is recommended to;
- Never post when you are angry. Do not vent on social media about the case or anyone involved.
- Never mention anything about the proceedings, the parties or witnesses involved, either directly or indirectly.
- Never post anything derogatory, rude or offensive about your former partner as it may be used against you.
- Consider how a post may be perceived and who can see them, take particular care if children are involved.
- Update your privacy settings.
- If you don’t want a judge to see something, don’t post it online.