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Facebook and Family Law

The internet and particularly Facebook is not merely a means of communication and social networking. For so many it defines almost every waking moment; what we’re doing, what we’re eating, where we’re going, where we’ve been, who we’re with, and how we feel about it.

It is a place to vent, complain, gloat and brag. It often seems harmless, but the ramifications of publishing your thoughts in cyberspace are certainly growing, particularly in the area of Family Law.

Family Law proceedings are an emotional time for all involved, so it seems only natural that the internet is a forum to vent and express some of those frustrations. However, be aware that almost anything you publish on the internet enters the public domain and is now catching the eye of the Family Court.

In a recent case the Family Court of Australia threatened to jail a father over a website he published on the internet labeling his former wife as a ‘psychopath’ and her lawyers as witches and murderers.

The website included photographs and descriptions of his former wife’s solicitors depicting one as an ‘ugly witch’ and another as ‘the assassin’. It alleged the solicitors had advised women to make false allegations of domestic violence and child abuse, while subjecting children to the ‘torture’ of being alienated from their fathers.

The father was obviously in a highly emotional situation and for whatever reason decided to vent these frustrations on the internet. However, in doing so he breached the Family Law Act by publically identifying the parties and risked being found in contempt of the Court.

While creating a hostile internet page seems an exaggerated reaction, we must all be aware that even the simple use of Facebook should be approached with caution during Family Law matters.

As a communication tool, along with more traditional methods like telephone and email, Facebook provides a fantastic alternative for parents to communicate with their children and each other. This is increasingly being reflected in Court Orders where Facebook is specifically mentioned for such use.

Users should remember that photographs and comments on Facebook are increasingly being adduced as evidence in parenting proceedings where the page is evidence of a particular behaviour, or incident that in some way may influence the proceedings, for example, a photograph showing a parent engaging in behaviour prohibited by a Court Order.

We are not suggesting that Facebook should not be used, as previously mentioned it is a useful tool and has become a daily method of communication for the majority of people. Just remember to use it wisely, as anything published on the internet, even during ‘the heat of the moment’ may have lasting repercussions.

Now, I’m off to update my status.

For further information contact our Family Law Team