Social media in family law is a minefield

Earlier this week it was reported that a father, who was unable to locate the mother to serve family law documents, was granted an order to serve her via Facebook Messenger.

Use of social media is becoming mainstream and I do not think this is the last of these orders we will see.

However, the way in which social media is being used by parents is becoming increasingly alarming.

Separating couples are increasingly using social media to fight acrimonious relationship breakdown wars. However, be warned – it doesn’t look good to a judge if ex-partners have inundated social media with messages about their ex.

Referring to your child’s father a ‘sperm donor’ or the mother as a ‘whore’ completely disrespects the other parent. Such unrestrained use of social media can backfire on a person, especially if you are seeking parenting orders from the courts or opposing a domestic violence order.

If you have kids it doesn’t look great to a judge if you have posted “eleventy-billion” messages about your ex, and if you are trying to co-parent it makes this process harder.

This morning at the White Ribbon Day Legal Profession Breakfast, Magistrate Strohfeld, one of two Magistrates who sits in the Southport Domestic and Family Violence Specialist Court, commented that a question he asks, when an aggrieved presents copies of abusive text messages is to the effect of “how would you feel if your child was sent messages like this by their partner?” He has had parents break down and cry in response.

Posting derogatory remarks on social media (whether sent to the target or not) is effectively the same thing.

I’m especially worried if children are caught up in feuding parents fighting on social media. Parents owe it to their children to minimise the stress of a relationship breakdown and conduct themselves in a respectful manner that lets them be children, not pawns in a battle.

The number one priority in any family separation is the wellbeing of the children and minimising any of the fallout of the separation upon them. That means protecting them from family violence in any form – including verbal abuse by either parent.

Too often family lawyers and mediators are encountering cases where children have been subjected to ongoing trauma by bitter breakups of their parents and tug of war feuds over custody issues.

A disintegrating relationship should not be fought out in the public eye. Even if you delete a post, a screenshot saves it for eternity and you never know who is reading it….

Before your separation becomes a war and the children the casualties, consider Collaborative Law or Mediation and put the children first.