Family law cases for many years have been intensely private matters, but what was once private is now commonly publicised on social media. Those engaged in family law disputes should be aware that what they share online can now make its way into the courtroom too.
In family law proceedings, courts are beginning to accept social media posts and activity as evidence. Social media evidence includes video and photo posts, as well as comments and other activity on social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook. He said/she said disputes arising in family law matters have always been particularly difficult to resolve, but parties in family law matters are increasingly relying upon digital evidence to support their case. The following are common family law matters where social media evidence may be used to resolve a disputed fact.
Parenting orders are made by a court in the ‘best interests’ of the children, outlining the time that children spend with each parent and their living arrangements. When deciding on parenting orders a primary consideration is the protection of children from harm or family violence. In cases where violence or safety is a disputed fact, photos or videos that show a parent acting irresponsibly or violently may be used in court. Comments on social media of a threatening nature may also be used as evidence.
Spousal and child maintenance
Following separation or divorce, a party may be ordered to make spousal maintenance payments to their former spouse to help them support themselves following divorce or separation. A parent is also responsible to financially support their children and orders can be made for child maintenance.
Under these circumstances, the party ordered to pay maintenance may fail to make payments or claim financial hardship. However, social media posts demonstrating a party’s recent activities such as holidays, eating out or recently acquired assets may indicate otherwise and this can be used as evidence when resolving such issues. Social media platforms such as LinkedIn may reveal additional undeclared income which could change the amount a party is ordered to pay in either spousal or child maintenance.
De facto relationships
Establishing that a de facto relationship existed can be a disputed fact in many family law matters. This may be resolved by looking for relationship status updates on social media and social media evidence that may indicate the couple were living together over a given period. Establishing a de facto relationship could make a big difference to the outcome of a family law matter and the court’s power to make relevant orders.
What should you do with social media evidence?
Social media evidence can be used to support or refute facts in family law matters. With the interests of the child of paramount concern in many parenting matters, the court is very willing to accept this type of evidence. If you believe you have social media evidence that is relevant to your case it is important to speak with your family lawyer, especially before publishing or posting anything online as this may impact upon your case.
If you have a family law matter the dedicated family law team at Taylor & Scott can help. They bring years of experience and understanding to your case in addition to up to date knowledge regarding technology and how social media can affect a family law case.
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