Facebook and family law: is your timeline giving you away? article banner image

As technological advances continue to be made so does the use that can be made of it by family lawyers.

Software. Smartphone or mobile phone app icons background.

As it becomes easier for people to instantly communicate and as an insatiable desire to log their daily activities grows so we have been able to utilise these changes to aid our clients.

A poorly judged remission of emails texts sent either in anger, or intoxicated can be retained and used as evidence.

In a number of cases where evidence can be hard to come by saved and used emails and texts are often produced by us to demonstrate abusive and controlling relationships.
Evidence however is now also coming to us via social media sites including tweets and more particularly Facebook.

Indiscreet and inappropriate messages have been frequently left by people on their accounts which are accessible and printable.

We have been able to use Facebook entries to demonstrate relevant evidence to a court. For example:-

• In one case a mother who was contending to the court that she was supportive and positive about father’s contact was successfully challenged by us as a result of the entirely contrary Facebook posts which she had made which were extraordinarily derogative about the father and his relationship with their children.

• In another case a husband was contending that he had no employment was advertising his self employed business on his Facebook account which we could produce to demonstrate that the evidence he was giving was untrue.

Given the ever changing and growing nature of social media it appears we may now be in a position to take the next step.

A New York Judge has recently ruled that a women can serve divorce papers on her husband through a Facebook message. According to newspaper reports the couple, originally from Ghana, married in a civil ceremony in 2009 but the relationship quickly deteriorated. The husband apparently had no known physical address and a private detective had failed to track him down.

The Manhatten Supreme Court granted permission for papers to be transmitted through a private message on a social network site with the direction that this should be once a week for three consecutive weeks, or until acknowledged.

Thereafter it is presumed that the wife would be entitled to continue with her divorce on the basis of the Judge being satisfied that the papers would have been drawn to his attention and his failure to respond to them would be deemed as acceptance.

Whilst this is a case that took place in the United States it is entirely conceivable that this can be translated to the United Kingdom when a Judge is being asked to give consideration to whether papers have effectively been served or drawn to the other parties attention where it has become difficult if not impossible to ensure the papers are directly served. This will be an extension to the other forms of service which have been accepted by the court for this purpose previously inclusive of advertisements in local and national newspapers.

We are also now ensuring that protective injunctions are drawn to deal with continued harassment via Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms.

If you would like to discuss this or any other family law issue please contact Peter Marshall, a partner in our family law team on 01762 74433 or email family.staustell@stephens-scown.co.uk with any queries.