Social media in relationship breakdowns

The break-up of a relationship is usually a time of high tension, stress and often anger. In days gone by you could have a good vent to your friends at the local pub or club about the behaviour of your partner, and that would be the end of it.

It would usually stay at the pub or club.

Today, however, social media with the phenomenon of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter has ensured that any venting using any of these vehicles will definitely not “stay at the pub”.

Even though you may be angry, upset and humiliated, you should avoid using social media to express your feelings at all costs.

You are not just talking to your friends. You are talking to the world.

There are several reasons why you must abstain.

You should be aware that any comments you make, particularly those fuelled by emotion, anger and sometimes alcohol may be used as evidence against you in future Family Court proceedings.

This could have a detrimental effect against you, particularly with parenting matters involving your children.

Another negative influence of using social media is how an emotional or angry message may affect your children, immediate family and close friends. It is almost guaranteed that these people and many more will end up reading it.

Anyone who is in the middle of family law proceedings with their ex should definitely be very cautious of what they post.

The Family Law Act prohibits the publication of any material that identifies a party or a witness in proceedings before the Family Court.

Any such publication amounts to a serious offence under the act.

It also includes any publication of the names of children who are the subject of parenting proceedings.

Prior to the advent of Facebook, the prohibition on publication mostly applied to newspapers and journalists.

With the rapid growth of social media in recent times, your Facebook updates may well amount to an offence if they publicly identify people involved in a Family Law Court case.

Social media usage can create even wider issues. A decision of a Magistrates Court in North Queensland found that a derogatory comment, posted by a man about his ex-wife on Facebook, amounted to defamation.

The post, which referred to the wife as “thieving, lying, money crazed” among other expletives, was found to be a defamation of the wife’s character.

Even though the post was removed by the husband within 24 hours, the post was seen by mutual friends, and the husband was ordered to pay the wife the sum of $10,000.00 in compensation for the defamation of her character.

So, it is important to think twice before posting something on social media, regardless how hurt, emotional or angry you are feeling at the time.

Perhaps on social media, as well as in life, we should live by the saying “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”.

Paula Phelan is a Family Lawyer with Specialist Accreditation in this area from the Queensland Law Society. She has been a lawyer for 26 years and is the director of Phelan Family Law, a Rockhampton legal firm specialising in Family Law only.