In recent times, people have become heavily dependent on social media as a form of communication and as an avenue to publicly voice their opinion. In family law proceedings, it is common for parties to use social media, including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, to vent their resentment against a former partner or their frustration with the family court process. What most people are unaware of is that section 121 of the Family Law Act 1975 provides it is a punishable offence for a person to publish or disseminate to the public any account of proceedings that identifies a party to or related to the proceedings.
In the case of Lackey and Mae  FMCAfam 284, a children’s matter heard in the Federal Magistrates Court of Australia, the father posted numerous posts on Facebook criticising the mother and disparaging the role and effectiveness of the Independent Children’s Lawyer, the Federal Magistrate and the Court.
In his judgment, Neville FM stated,
‘An unfortunate and increasing feature of modern litigation, particularly but not exclusively in family law, is the use of ‘social media’. While it can be used for good, often it is used as a weapon, either by one or both of the parties, and or by their respective supporters.’
The Magistrate found that the Father had breached section 121 of the Family Law Act 1975 and ordered that the father remove from Facebook all references to the proceedings and restrained him from publishing further material relating to the proceedings. A further Order was made that the Marshal of the Court periodically monitor social media (Facebook in particular) for any postings by the father or his family that referred to the proceedings.
If you are currently in the midst of family law proceedings, it is important to be aware of the implications of section 21 of the Family Law Act. Publishing any account of proceedings that identifies a party is not only a punishable offence, but it could also negatively affect the proceedings, particularly in parenting matters.