As a family lawyer who uses social media to inform and educate my audience, I have seen, and I am sure many of you would also have come across posts, comments and opinions on various family law related issues which are shared and adjudicated upon by the court of public opinion.
In any discussions with my clients, at the outset, I always stress the importance of keeping matters private with your family law related issues remaining just that, within your family. Using social media as a tool to antagonise, elicit support and reaction, abuse and indirectly attack your spouse/partner should be avoided and more significantly so where children are concerned. The internet never forgets as they say, and you may post in the heat of the moment and delete however, somewhere in the abyss, it can be found so be mindful.
A paramount consideration should be how the child/children of the relationship will feel in the future coming across posts where their parents have been disparaging towards each other or waging a war of words indirectly to draw attention to the fact that there is a breakdown of the relationship.
Do not get me wrong, social media has its advantages such as raising awareness of important issues in real time and sharing of information that can support many in various aspects of the law for example highlighting key issues such as domestic abuse and the support available to survivors, but it also has its disadvantages. In family disputes, there are many disadvantages to its use which must always be at the fore of the minds of all individuals.
Issues I have come across over the years have included the following:
- Providing details of an ongoing case including names of children and the location of a hearing which is prohibited.
- A celebratory post about a recent job role being acquired when dealing with issues around maintenance, but this information was not voluntarily disclosed, despite the ongoing duty to disclose in these types of cases.
- An update of relationship status which was crucial information in a financial remedy matter.
- An abusive post which negatively had an impact on the person who was a target of the post.
- Posting photographs of children of the family which is not agreed by all those involved with concerns around the impact of this.
These are just a few examples which caused the court a great deal of concern and indeed those involved.
So, before you take to social media to seek for spectators to be judge and jury of your family law dispute, I would urge all individuals to pause, breathe, and reflect. Consider the impact the action you are about to take will have and the ripple effect of this on all. Remember that what you post may be admitted as evidence and it just takes one person to take a screenshot before you delete it. Think of the long-term implications of that post, comment, or narrative that you are presenting about your circumstances. What you share may also undermine your case.
My view remains that sharing personal details of your family law issue on social media should be avoided when a relationship breaks down. Anger can get in the way as emotions are often high. I am not suggesting that you do not use social media at all, just be cautious about what you share and if you have any concerns about your case, then speak to your lawyer who will be able to provide you with advice tailored to your circumstances.
Amanda Adeola is a contributor to ‘Separating With Children 101′, 3rd edition, (Bath Publishing, 2023)