Can Using Social Media Adversely Affect Your Family Court Matter?

Social media has become an integral part our daily lives. Most of us utilize one form of social media whether it be Facebook, YouTube, Instagram or Twitter.

Our online profiles can disclose many details about our personal lives including our photographs, age, relationship status and even current location. Although there may be positives in using social media generally it is important to remember that if you are in the midst of any Family Court matter you must understand and consider the very serious consequences that could arise following use of social media platforms to express your feelings. 

When used correctly, social media can be an effective tool for families and individuals to communicate and keep in touch with each other. Also through platforms such as Skype, parents can facilitate and promote their children enjoying regular communication with the other parent irrespective of where they physically may be.

In Australia the internet can be considered a platform for free speech and accordingly it is all too common for people to publish posts to the internet without thinking through the consequences. If you are going through a family law matter, where stress and anxiety is heightened, you may not have regard to prejudicing your position before the Family Court, when going online to express your feelings about your situation, your former partner, your children, or indeed the Court or the systems in place. Such conduct can result in you posting material online including through social media which may be seriously inappropriate and could damage your case before the Court, or even lead to possible criminal prosecution.

It is vitally important if you are involved in Family Court matters that you understand that the law prohibits you from publishing any identifying details of your Court proceedings. Section 121 of the Family Law Act (Act) make it an offence for anyone to publish any part of any proceedings. A person that does so commits an offence punishable upon conviction by imprisonment for a period of up to a year. To protect yourself, we would recommend the best course is to remain absolutely silent about any issues related to your family law proceedings. It is not uncommon, even if you have just been critical or expressive about your feelings toward another person, including in a PM (private message) through Facebook, for copies of these to be annexed to Affidavits in Family Court proceedings. As you can imagine, it can be very damaging to your case if a judicial officer reads your scathing comments about your former partner posted online in an emotional outburst. Unfortunately, once its online and been seen by others, you can damage your case, be liable for prosecution, or could be pursued in relation to defamation.

In the case of Lackey & Mae [2013] FMCA Fam 284, it was found that breach of section 121 of the Family Law Act had taken place. In this case, Mr Mae has published details of his Court proceedings and had denigrated the Court, the Independent Children’s Lawyer and the other party. The Court ordered, among other things, that the matter be referred to the Police for criminal prosecution for breach the Family Law Act.

Publishing material in relation to Family Court proceedings is a very serious matter which may be punishable by imprisonment. It is therefore important to keep in mind that by posting on social media you may just be in breach of the Family Law Act.

If you have any concerns about your situation or if you require more information about your rights and obligations please contact us at Perth Family Lawyers to discuss the matter further and to obtain independent legal advice.

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