An astonishing 70% of Australian’s are active social media users, it therefore comes as no surprise that digital and, specifically, social media-focused evidence can be utilised by parties to family law matters. Social media acts as a platform for anyone to publish almost anything instantaneously. The result of this can have serious repercussions for those involved in legal disputes.
It is not uncommon for people to have moments of passion which eventuate with a social media post providing more than their ‘friends/followers’ bargained for. This can be of particular concern in the context of parenting cases where the best interests of the child are the court’s paramount consideration and parents post irresponsible behaviour. By posting about a case still afoot, parties may damage their case and equally importantly, can be held to have broken the law.
It is against the law to publish information about any current family law proceedings. The Family Law Act 1975 at s.121 restricts parties of court proceedings from publishing any account of the proceedings by electronic means to any section of the public.
Those involved in family law matters need to bear in mind what the courts deem admissible in certain circumstances and if possible, should refrain from posting altogether whilst engaged in the court process.
Examples of evidence that has been accepted by the courts in family law matters are:
• In matters of conduct, neglect or family violence – any screenshots, posts, comments, photos or messages showing irresponsible acts or denigrating the child or other party.
• Where full and frank disclosure is required – social media accounts showing extra employment or unaccounted for luxuries.
• Where a party asserts a de-facto relationship doesn’t exist – any photographs and posts of the parties together over periods of time (which, if discovered, invokes the jurisdiction of the family court to make orders).