Can you use social media as evidence in the family court?
In short, the answer to this question is basically, yes, you can use some social media as evidence in the family court. What you really need to think about is how it is going to help you, if at all. In reality, using social media as evidence can be a double edged sword. Remember, the evidence you seek to produce may not be used in the way you originally intended!
How does a court decide whether social media can be used as evidence?
Some aspects of social media use that warrant the need for further advice include:
- What’s appropriate to share or not share on social media;
- Whether certain communications breach particular orders that might be in place, such as restraining orders or confidentiality;
- How online conduct can prejudice you, during or after, a family court proceeding.
It’s fair to say that we are still coming to terms with just how much social media can impact family court proceedings. Some of the good thing that social media has enabled are:
- Locating people who are hard to track down;
- Identify the spending and lifestyle expenses of someone that is not consistent with the financial resources they are reporting to you or the court;
- Encouraging anonymous help-seeking behaviour- this is particularly useful in cases of domestic violence where people reach out for help.
Like with many things in life the good also comes with the bad. Examples of how online social media can lead to abuses are where it is used to:
- Violate privacy;
- Hack; and
Social media and confidentiality in family court proceedings
It becomes even trickier, when it comes to talking about family court proceedings. It’s not uncommon for parties to a dispute to be unhappy or frustrated, and take to their social media to ‘just vent’ about what is happening. What they might fail to realise is that they could be in breach of court-imposed confidentiality, legislation and doing themselves and or their children more harm than good. Our experience tells us to strongly discourage this form of venting.
What can we take away from the above? Approach the use of social media as evidence with caution and seek advice. Speaking to family lawyers with experience in this area will help ensure you put the best evidence possible before the court – evidence which works for you and not against you.