A picture can paint a thousand words...

Beware the perils of social media!  Julie Gallimore, Partner, Mediator Collaborative and Family Lawyer explains that incriminating images on social media can be presented in court to affect settlements. 

Picture the scene.  After months of preparations and having spent thousands of pounds, a wife seeks to present to the Court that she has been struggling to manage with the children on the meagre maintenance provided by her errant husband.  The husband produces, at court, photographic evidence from his wife’s own Facebook or other social media account, of her quaffing champagne on a tropical beach with her new partner.

Unfortunately, with the explosion of social media and the carefree abandon with which we upload the details of our daily life, scenes such as this are being played out in family courts with increasing frequency.  The fact is that incriminating photos and posts uploaded to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the like can be used in family proceedings and can have an adverse effect on the individual’s case.  This might occur, for example, when a party asserts that they are unable to pay maintenance, but show a lavish lifestyle on social media, or claim they are unable to work, yet their social media profile states otherwise.

It is also the case that, on an emotional level, careful negotiations between parties’ solicitors can break down when a husband or wife reads comments, or sees pictures, on social media of their former spouse with a new partner.  Even if the final settlement is not fundamentally changed by this event, negotiations are likely to become delayed, more acrimonious and expensive.  Therefore, when going through a separation or divorce, it is very important that parties are conscious of their online presence on social media and its potential effect.

Parties also need to be aware of the privacy laws and, in particular, the Computer Misuse Act which could have criminal repercussions.  An allegation that a client’s WhatsApp account was accessed without consent let to the information being excluded, and police involvement.  It is essential that parties tread carefully in this regard.

A consultation with an expert family lawyer at an early stage could help avoid an embarrassing or costly situation.  Rowberry Morris offers an initial fixed fee consultation.