Posting of Family Law Material on Social Media

With today’s connected society, the ease of reaching many people in such a short period of time and our changing habits of sharing our lives through social media posts, it is becoming more prevalent for parties to Family Law proceedings to post copies of documents on their social media with their accompanying comments. We have had quite a few of these examples over the last number of years. The posting of Orders sought, Affidavits filed and Orders of the Court which identified parties to proceedings potentially leaves that person at risk of prosecution.

Section 121 of the Family Law Act governs this type of behaviour. Section 121 states;

“A person who publishes in a newspaper or periodical publication, by radio broadcast or television, or by other means, or otherwise disseminates to the public or to a section of the public by any means, any account of proceedings, or any part of any proceedings, under this Act that identifies
a party to the proceedings;
a person who is related to, or associated with, a party to the proceedings or is, or is alleged to be, in any other way concerned in the matter to which the proceedings relate; or
a witness in the proceedings;

Commits an offence punishable, upon conviction by imprisonment for a period not exceeding one year.”

The further parts to Section 121 go on to outline exceptions to this rule and also outline different ways a party can be identified.

The use of social media is caught by the words “by other means” in Section 121 (1). The words “otherwise disseminates to the public or a section of the public by any means” places the use of social media open to being easily construed as disseminating information to a section of the public and therefore a breach of Section 121. There are a number of cases involving Facebook posts such as Lackey & Mae [2013] FMCAFam 284 just to name one.

Please think long and hard before using social media to air grievances and share Family Law related material and if you do, then one should expect repercussions.

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