Social Media and Separation: the Do’s and Don’ts

Social Media and Separation generally don’t mix well.

Jones Mitchell family lawyer, Joelene Seaton, advises, “While it may be tempting to vent emotions and frustrations on social media, people need to be aware that anything they post is considered a public document even if they have tight privacy settings on their account.

“Social media posts, text messages and emails are all admissible in Court and can be used as evidence of financial status, poor parenting, infidelity or even an excessive use of social media. A Family Court Judge may consider social media content relevant to their decision in a parenting or a property settlement matter.

“Under current legislation, Section 121 of the Family Law Act it also makes it an offence to publish (including by electronic means) any material that may identify a party or parties in proceedings before the Family Court or the Federal Circuit Court. There is also a mirror provision in Section 159 of the Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act in respect of domestic violence proceedings before the Magistrates Court” Ms Seaton said.

Jones Mitchell Lawyers recommends the following “Do’s and Don’ts” when separating:

Do

  • Be aware that whatever you post on social media is PUBLIC AND PERMANENT even on accounts with tight privacy settings your posts, comments, photos, shares or likes all have the potential to be available permanently. They can be saved, screen-shotted, printed or forwarded or a cached version of a deleted post or comment could also be still be available.
  • Use caution, discretion and excellent judgement when posting or commenting on social media when you are in the midst of separating. Ask your close friends and family to also be prudent about their comments or posts as they could potentially be used if they relate to your separation.
  • Change your passwords and protect your digital equipment with passwords, so they can’t be accessed by another party.
  • Make sure what you say or portray on social media is consistent with what you are saying or portraying in your separation negotiations.
  • Where possible discuss with your ex-partner and agree how and when you might share information that indicates your separation on social media.

 

Don’t

  • Don’t delete your accounts as it could be considered destruction of evidence
  • Don’t access your partners social media accounts or phone– even if you were given the password in the past, it is considered illegal to access someone else’s password protected account and any ‘evidence’ you may find in this way could be inadmissible in Court or used to discredit you if obtained in this way.
  • Don’t overshare – do you want your, potential future partner and/ or their family, or a potential future employer or your children and their friends being able to read all the details of your separation five or ten years from now? It will make it easier for you to leave this difficult time in your past if you don’t make a public record of it.
  • Don’t publish anything negative about your partner, as it may be tantamount to domestic violence.

 

“We advise clients to, ideally, not use social media at all when going through a separation.  However, if they are using social media to consider first whatever they post, like, comment or share could be taken out of context and read by a much wider audience then ever intended not just now but well into the future.” Ms Seaton said.

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