Family Law and Social Media: Dangerous Territory
As we hurtle further into the 21st century, we are all only becoming more connected, at least digitally speaking. While this can be an incredible asset when our relationships bring us joy, social media can also be a significant liability when relationships sour. Not only will social media keep us bound to those people that we may wish to forget, it will also provide them with a window into your ongoing life. If you are in the midst of a family law dispute, it should come as no surprise that social media will play a prominent role in demonstrating ethical behavior, spending habits, disposable income, etc. If you are in the midst of a custody dispute, you can guarantee that your ex-spouse will seize upon any examples of drinking or in appropriate behaviour that may help convince a judge that you are perhaps not the better parent. If there are outstanding issues regarding support, family lawyers will certainly try to find social media evidence to demonstrate a high standard of living to amp up both spousal and child support.
In one recent case, Legien v. Legien, 2012 SKQB 326, the court highlighted the following:
“In the past couple of years evidence of social media, whether Facebook or Twitter, has surfaced in evidence in family law proceedings with increasing frequency. The thoughtless behaviour and comments which are posted on Facebook, and responded to by individuals of lesser or like minds, opens the door to a new form of evidence and window into the lives of future litigants. The court was referred to various postings... on Facebook. In addition to those postings highlighted by counsel for the petitioner, the court read all of the Facebook postings including some fair and some rather mean responses by other friends invited to the face page... What may now become evident to the parties, with the benefit of hindsight, is the deleterious effect of airing one's dirty laundry in public”.
So here is the advice, which is offered to all clients of this firm in family law disputes: leading up to, during and, if necessary, following any family law matter, suspend all of your social media accounts. Resist the temptation to take part in any activities which could be used to question your character or, at the very least, do so only with the closest of friends who promise to not post any pictures of you, tagged or not, to their social media. You may wish to look through existing images and posts to determine if there are potential liabilities and, of course, you would be wise to alert your lawyer as soon as possible to any posts or images of your ex-partner which may assist you in your matter.