Facebook causes chaos in Family Law Court cases

by Peter Magee on June 24, 2012

Peter Magee

Increasingly at Armstrong Legal we are finding that Facebook is featuring in family law proceedings. Frequently clients monitor the activities of the other party via what they post on Facebook.

As much as people want to feel free to post details of their lives on Facebook, in my view parties should be careful about their use of this and other public forums, especially when undergoing Family Law proceedings in Court. Already Facebook disclosures have made a staring appearance in several Family Court cases.

For example in 2010 an Adelaide Court ordered that Facebook be used to serve a paternity test on a father who would otherwise be difficult to serve. In this case the Court ordered that the documents be served electronically through using Facebook’s private messaging service.

In particular I have found that parties are discussing the fact that they are involved in Family Law Court proceedings on Facebook. While on the one hand I understand that people may wish to express and vent to friends regarding the difficulties and stress they are facing during the Court process, the problem is that arguably such discussions are occurring in a public forum.

Section 121 of the Family Law Act states that that both parties are prohibited from publishing information in relation to Family law proceedings in a public forum. Such information includes an account of the proceedings or a part of the proceedings that identifies a party to the proceedings, a witness in the proceedings or someone else associated with the proceedings. The sentence for the offence is up to one year in jail.

Perhaps the difficulty with Facebook is that people feel that it is in a sense “private.” Similar to calling a food friend and complaining about the difficult day they may have had in Court parties may want to post something on Facebook to their Facebook “friends” about this. The difficulty is that Facebook could also be regarded as a public forum, rather than a private one.

While it is understandable and human to feel frustrated, angry and a whole range of emotions during separation, I would suggest caution when expressing or acting on these feelings on a public forum such as Facebook. I would caution all those involved in disputes with their ex partner to reality test their Facebook posts with the question “would I be okay for this post to be before a Judge in the Family Court?” If the answer to that is “no” then perhaps pause and reconsider if you wish to press “post”.

If you have recently separated from your partner and would like to book an initial consultation please contact Armstrong Legal on (02) 9261 4555.

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