Social Media and Family Law
Social media society
Social media is all around us. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and all the rest.
We keep our friends up to date with what’s happening in our lives and in the lives of our loved ones. We share pictures and stories from our lives. We circulate articles and ‘like’ posts. We communicate in a myriad of ways that were not contemplated when the parliamentary drafters were hard at work putting together the Family Law Act back in the mid-1970s.
When a relationship breaks down it is normal to share the news with friends and people you know. Often this involves social media posts and replies.
No social media when Family Law Act came into force
In 1975 when the Act was passed the expression ‘social media’ would probably have drawn you a few blank stares. The internet and access to information that we take for granted now simply did not exist.
Unlawful publication of Family Court cases
However one thing that pre-dates the rise and rise of social media is the legal requirement not to identify parties caught up in a family law case that is before the court. At section 121 of the Family Law Act 1975 there is a provision that makes it unlawful to publish matters relating to court proceedings that identifies a party or a witness in a case.
An exception to non-identification exists in that the court has the power to issue publication orders – which may arise where for example a child has been unlawfully removed and the publication may lead to their being found
Publishing includes social media
Publishing is broadly defined and includes dissemination by ‘electronic means’ which these days covers just about anything published on the web or via social media.
In many cases a separation does not lead to court. Instead in lots of cases things are resolved with informal agreements, or negotiated more formal outcomes either with or without lawyers. Those cases aren’t caught by the non-publication provision in the Act – although discretion is usually a good idea in any case.
Beware – if in doubt, don’t publish
But if your Family Law case is before the court then you should exercise a great deal of caution before posting anything to social media about your situation including replying to other posts or commenting about anything connected to your case. It is rarely helpful and can often lead to problems later on. The penalties that can be involved in a breach of section 121 are significant and the impact upon your case is unlikely to be positive. You may also unwittingly provide helpful evidence to the other party.
Family Law help available
If you have any queries concerning this article or need help with a Family Law matter please get in touch. You can reach us on 07 5597 3366 or simply fill out the ‘Contact Us’ form at the bottom of the page.
For more information on this topic please contact Margaret Miller, Partner and Family Lawyer. This article has been prepared by Bell Legal Group for general information purposes only. It is not legal advice and should not be relied upon as such.