Your Facebook etiquette is probably the last thing on your mind if your family is in crisis and facing court proceedings. But mixing social media and divorce or any family law proceedings could have a serious impact on the outcome.
You may think of your Facebook, Instagram or Twitter primarily as a way of talking to and keeping in touch with friends. Don’t forget that what we post may be totally public, and that it can affect how others see us.
For example, you are in the middle of proceedings for maintenance and custody of your children. You don’t normally go out much as you have very little money. But your best friend is getting married and you go to the Hen/Stag night and to the wedding. You post some pictures of these events and your Friends tag you in some of the pictures they post too.
These pictures could be used in court as evidence that you lead a ‘party lifestyle’. They could affect maintenance proceedings by indicating that you have plenty of money to spend on socialising. They could further be used to imply that your lifestyle may make you unsuitable for custody. While the example given may appear to be extreme, it is not unusual. More regular postings of nights out, concerts, or holidays can also be used against you in proceedings.
Yes, you can block or Unfriend your ex-partner and restrict your privacy settings to Friends Only on Facebook. But undoubtedly you share many Friends with your ex. Some of these Friends may share what you post with him/her. They may feel particularly motivated to do so if the split is acrimonious. This is particularly important if you are going through divorce, separation, access, custody or maintenance disputes in the family law courts. That’s because, rightly or wrongly, the way your behaviour is ‘perceived’ by others could affect key decisions about your case.
DO suspend your use of all social media, if you can. You may be sharing things best kept private at present. If you, feel unable to do this, for business or personal reasons, then at least cut all personal posting and comments out while proceedings are underway. This still leaves you free to browse and share/retweet news and other items.
DON’T forget that some “Friends”, may no longer be “on your side”. It’s unfortunate, but true that friends you shared may be divided by your break-up. As mentioned above, what you think is Private may be Shared with your Ex by Friends.
At the very least, DO limit your privacy settings to filter who can view your page, but remember this is no guarantee that others won’t share.
DON’T post derogatory comments about your ex, or run them down in any way – this may be used in evidence against you….literally! Even if you delete them in a wiser moment, anyone can take a screenshot of what you have posted online.
DON’T FORGET that your children may also see these posts. Posts of you with a new partner in the very early stages, or making derogatory comments about their other parent, can effect children badly.
DO limit messaging with your former partner to necessary texts only, and be polite and civil at all times. Remember that email and text communication is nearly always used in court when it comes to complaints about access or parenting matters.
DON’T post photographs or allow friends to post photographs of you, as these can also show up elsewhere. This may sound a little drastic, but even simple photos of you away for the weekend or on a night out can be damaging. As with the example above, they can indicate a lifestyle. And your ex may try to use this in an application for increased maintenance from you or for reduced maintenance to you. Photos of you drinking can also be used, particularly if alcohol is a factor being stated against you in access or custody matters. I’m not suggesting that you deliberately hide your real self but that you exercise caution particularly if you are involved in a bitter dispute
If you must post, DO take time to consider what you are doing or what you want to say, particularly if you are angry or upset. Run it by a trusted friend if you are unsure….and DON’T EVER post anything at all if you have had an alcoholic drink or two.
DON’T – under any circumstances – discuss or mention the family law proceedings. You may think your comments are unbiased and objective, but the law and the courts may not view it that way.
If you need advice or support on any of the issues raised above, please call Alan Finnerty on 01 637 6200. Or you can email him at email@example.com
*In contentious business, a solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage or proportion of any award or settlement.
Orpen Franks Solicitors LLP
28 & 30 Burlington Road, Dublin 4, Ireland
Telephone: +353 1 637 6200
Facsimile: +353 1 637 6262