Families Beware of Facebook Despair

My mother told me a lot of things growing up, but I always remembered the day she told me that the first rule of law was to “never write anything down.” She meant this of course to be anything that you wouldn’t want “shouted from the rooftops.” But in an electronic world where every thought we have is publically published and dated, it doesn’t appear many people heed this advice any longer.

It increasingly seems however, that my mother was right. Anyone who’s operated a Facebook or Twitter account has experienced the awkward status update or tweet bearing “too much information.” Just recently a friend of mine posted a photo of her tonsils publically asking “if they looked inflamed?” But when does “too much information” really become “too much” to the point where it can threaten the very livelihood of the blogger?

One answer to this question is in the Family Law Court. The extensive ‘Privacy Policy’ of sites like Facebook makes it clear that users upload information ‘at their own risk’ and concurrently grants Facebook a license to use this content in any way desired. As a result, social media posts are now being submitted as evidence in Family Court disputes.

People involved in Family Law negotiations should take this matter very seriously and those who have not done may have already paid the price.  Several cases have recently emerged where evidence from Facebook has played a vital role in the Family Law proceedings.

One recent case involved a Father who had been ordered to keep his child at home during contact visits. He had one afternoon however, taken the child to the beach where he and the child were photographed. The photo was uploaded to Facebook, and when seen by his former wife, was later used as evidence in Court where the Father was found to have breached those orders.

Another case involved a Father who sought the return of his child and the child’s mother from New Zealand to Australia. Evidence arose however, that the father had in a Facebook conversation with the Mother, agreed that the child should live with her. Subsequently, the Court refused the Father’s application.

Many people have been guilty of the occasional Facebook or Twitter ‘vent’, but increasingly couples have been using these social forums as a means of abusing and embarrassing each other online. This behavior is not advantageous to anyone, and might come back to bite you.

It is important that clients “think before they post” and seriously consider the potential damage social media could inflict on their case, as well as the effect it may have on their family relationships. Instead of boycotting social media completely, perhaps the solution is as simple as my mother’s old advice, with a couple of simple amendments, if you don’t want it shouted from the rooftops, “never post, tweet or type anything down.”


By Alyson Gale

© Resolve Conflict Family Lawyers and Mediation

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