Think Before You Vent Online: The Use of Social Media Evidence in Family Law

Facebook. It’s a wondrous place where you can connect with friends, share photos and let your fingers do the talking. What happens though when your fingers go rogue?
You’ve couple of wines in on a Saturday night, the kids are asleep and your ex has sent you a particularly infuriating text message about him being unable to pick them up tomorrow. At the time Facebook may seem like a good place to vent your frustrations and get some support from your friends. But you should think twice before clicking post on that status update or comment.
There is a growing phenomenon of using Facebook evidence in family law proceedings, and incriminating photos and written content are now having serious impacts on the outcomes of proceedings.
In one case, a father was only granted supervised time with his daughter. He was found to have breached the order when a Facebook photo was used as evidence to prove he had taken the child to the beach alone.
In another case, a mother had posted on Facebook: ‘I was worried for a while there he wouldn’t turn up, but he was running late. I don’t care. I’ve still got my babies. Felt like being a smart arse and telling him to be afraid that I won’t take them back for another six months which would equal another $20,000.’ Upon the Court reading this status update, she was found to have been making false allegations.
In another recent case, a father had attempted to have the mother and child return to Australia from New Zealand. The mother was able to produce evidence of a Facebook post in which the father had agreed to the trip. The Court refused the father’s application.
While the above cases demonstrate that there are obvious upsides to social media, such as injustice being avoided, it is still important to be mindful about what you post. It can be incredibly damaging to your case if the other party produces evidence of you bagging out your ex as a parent online. It is almost impossible to undo a damaging communication sent through media such as Facebook, Twitter, SMS and email. And there is an ease and speed with which the other party can save that piece of communication and use it as evidence. It is also important to remember that your Facebook ‘friends’ might not be ‘friends’ anymore after your separation and during heated family law disputes.
The bottom line: be careful of the communications you post or send. We all need to vent sometimes, but it is important to choose the right venue to offload your frustrations. So if you’re feeling frustrated with your ex, we suggest you take a deep breath, close Facebook, and go call a friend or family member instead.
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