Online communication allows people to communicate quickly, and often without barriers. Such an easy means of communication provides a lot of benefits. However, as a certain movie set in a galaxy far, far away stated, with great power comes great responsibility. Just because it’s easy to say something online, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. This was a lesson learned the hard way by a father in a recent decision from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.
Use of social media
The case largely focused on child and spousal support, included the father’s arrears in both. The couple involved have to children together, the eldest born on August 22, 2008, and the youngest on October 27, 2010. In addition to the support matters, the court was also asked to determine whether the parties could post photos and information about the children on social media sites such as Facebook.
The mother provided testimony that the father used social media to “broadcast and discuss his ongoing dispute with the (mother) regarding access to the children. He has used social media to raise funds to assist him with legal costs. In doing so, he has been very critical of the (mother).” The mother also claimed that the father had blocked her from his social media accounts
The father, meanwhile, testified that he wished to be able to use Facebook as a means for his family to get to know his children.
The court’s ruling
The court determined that “It would seem reasonable to the Court that the (father) be allowed to publish photographs and comment regarding the children provided there is no mention of any legal dispute issues relating to the children and/or derogatory comments made against the (mother). The Court will accordingly make a final order reflecting these terms.”
In practice, the ruling meant the father would be able to post photos of his children to social media, but he would not be able to make any comments about his dispute with the mother, make any derogatory remarks about her, or post anything about issues he may have in relation to his access with the children.
What this means
Social media is a relatively new technology, and the courts are still facing new questions in how it relates to family law. It’s safe to say, that anything published on social media should be assumed to be accessible to anyone. Parties involved in litigation, judges, and others may be able to see what is posted. The courts have used social media to determine if a father had been hiding income. Courts have also used social media evidence to determine that a father spoke poorly of a mother, therefore treating the child contrary to their best interests.
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