With the phenomenal rise of social media, it has been no big surprise that we regularly see the effects on the family and in family law cases. For many people, social media offers a way to cope with a family breakdown with support from friends, online forums and advice. However social media can also prove to be a very useful source of evidence in many cases and it is important to understand the pitfalls of posting.
So, we asked Victoria Clarke from our Esher office to join us on the blog to look at what not to do on social media when you are separating.
There was a time when social media was viewed as a ‘young person’s game’. Teenagers were sharing their lives on Myspace, students were connecting on Facebook, and Friends Reunited was a relatively new concept.
Over the last ten years, the presence of social media in people’s lives has grown exponentially and it is now unusual to meet someone who does not have a social media account. The concept of connecting to somebody across the world via your computer is now mainstream. People share the innermost details of their lives on a regular basis. Whilst this is generally a positive way to interact with your friends and family, this personal connection can have a negative effect when your family unexpectedly breaks down. The sharing of personal achievements turns into the sharing of personal frustrations at your estranged spouse or fears and concerns about an upcoming hearing.
The risk with sharing such information is partly the permanency of making those comments, but also the fact that the majority of family proceedings, if not all, are confidential to the Courts and therefore you are at risk of being in contempt of Court if you do something such as post a picture of your latest Court Order that you may or may not be happy with.
Going through a family dispute is all-consuming for the people involved. It is therefore natural to feel a need to share how you feel about that process on social media, to seek sympathy from your friends and family. However, this is not always a good idea.
If someone has several hundred connections on Facebook, whilst they may be called your friends, they may not necessarily be so. It is not uncommon for flippant comments that are made by one partner to be saved and simply emailed to the other to let them know what has been happening. Whilst you may have blocked your partner from seeing your posts, this does not mean that they will never be seen by that person.
This can be a great risk because something that has been written in the heat of the moment can then be used against that person going forward. An off the cuff remark could be used against you in Court proceedings.
Social media can have its positives in a family dispute, particularly if an individual is being accused of being in a certain location at a certain time or the relationship between one parent and their child is being challenged within proceedings. Social media can show where a person was at any given time and people can also use posts or photographs that they have put on social media in the past as evidence of their positive relationships with family and friends.
Nevertheless, we advise our clients to avoid using social media in any form to express their frustration or disappointment in connection with their divorce. These posts can be used as evidence within a Court and the momentary feeling of satisfaction when posting something defamatory is not worth the trouble it can cause that individual in the future.
If you feel frustrated or emotional in respect of your divorce, you are better to call a family member or a friend to discuss it with them or even speak to your solicitor about how you feel. They may be able to recommend a divorce counsellor or therapist for you to speak to. Talking through your feelings and processing your emotions are going to be far better for your mental health and your ability to manage your divorce going forward. Posting something on Facebook about how awful your spouse is or how evil their lawyers are being is not going to have any positive effect on your divorce proceedings.