I am beginning to think that an understanding of Facebook and social media will have to form a part of a family practitioner’s annual CPD requirements. Here are a few of the ways that I have seen facebook, myspace and other similar websites crop up in a court or family context:
- public arguments between couples over facebook (yes really – in fact between an old school friend and his (probably now ex-) partner, ending with each commenting on the other’s status that they should ‘grow up’ and ‘get a life’. Quite.
- evidence of a mother being involved in a relationship with a sex offender serving a prison sentence, which was relied on to demonstrate an ongoing risk of harm to the child concerned
- as a mechanism for harassment and threats against an ex partner
- as evidence of teenage children’s wishes regarding contact where the parents were highly conflicted and the resident parent said they were adamantly opposed to contact
- as a mechanism for indirect contact
- as evidence of lifestyle and hence financial non-disclosure
- as a way of continuing a dispute about contact with a child by posting negative remarks about the resident mother on the child’s myspace page and circulating emails / comments about the case to the myspace friends – a dispute then arising as to the mother’s refusal to allow the father access to the child’s myspace page by changing the privacy settings
- in connection with discussions about how a parent publishing comparatively ‘harmless’ information about a child involved in proceedings might involve a breach of the rules regarding disclosure of information regarding proceedings concerning children.
Yes, social media pops up in cases of all sorts: finance, children (public and private) and injunction proceedings. You cannot get away from it, even in the midst of a paper obsessed profession like law.
We’re some way off I think from blogging or tweeting in court, but it pays to have a little bit of a clue about web 2.0 – issues like those above are bound to crop up with increasing frequency and questions of access to and disclosure of data from third parties like Facebook (or similar) in order to prove assorted allegations are likely to arise sooner or later. Has anybody yet dealt with such a case I wonder?