There is a growing incidence of the use of `Facebook evidence’ in family law court proceedings. Extracts from Facebook, printed by a `friend’ and provided to the other parent are routinely annexed to affidavit evidence and the Court asked to infer something negative about the publishing parent. It is imperative that parents be conscious of the consequences of placing any negative comments about another parent on an internet site such a Facebook. `Friends’ may no longer be `friends’ in the context of separation and a heated parenting dispute, and comments made in the heat of the moment may ultimately form the basis for a Court’s decision about time that a child is to spend with a parent. This will be particularly damaging evidence in circumstances where a child has access to a parent’s site and the capacity to view derogatory comments.
The attitude of parents to each other is an important consideration under the Family Law Act, as is the capacity of a parent to foster the other parent’s relationship with a child. Status updates like `My ex is a loser’ or `I just smashed her in Court’ are unlikely to encourage a positive parenting relationship. The Court tends to view such comments as a desire to publish to the world at large, rather than something as discrete as an email or a chat over coffee with a friend. Everyone deserves the opportunity to vent, it is simply important to choose the right avenue. There are specific provisions of the Family Law Act that prohibit parties from discussing court proceedings in a public forum and provide serious penalties for any publication.
It is imperative that children are distanced from verbal or written comments of a derogatory nature. There is an abundance of psychological evidence that clearly establishes the damaging effect upon a growing psyche of being exposed to parental conflict.
Posting photographs or location updates on Facebook can also be used as evidence. For example, in one Family Court decision, a parent was ordered to spend time with the child at his home during contact visits however, a photograph later surfaced on Facebook with the Father and the child at the beach. The Court subsequently found that the parent had breached the Order with serious consequences.
Whilst we are all human, best to keep the above in mind when next updating your Facebook status.