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social media

Paula Phelan is a Family Lawyer with Specialist Accreditation in this area from the Queensland Law Society. She has been a lawyer for 21 years and is the director of Phelan Family Law, a Rockhampton legal firm specialising in Family Law only.

The break up of a relationship is usually a time of high tension, stress and often anger. In days gone by you could have a good vent to your friends at the local pub or club about the behaviour of your partner, and that would be the end of it.

It would usually stay at the pub or club.

Today however, social media with the phenomenon of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter has ensured that any venting using any of these vehicles will definitely not “stay at the pub”.

Even though you may be angry, upset and humiliated, you should avoid using social media to express your feelings at all costs.

You are not just talking to your friends. You are talking to the world.

There are several reasons why you must abstain.

Firstly any comments you make, particularly those fuelled by emotion, anger and sometimes alcohol can be used as evidence against you in future Family Court proceedings.

This could have a detrimental affect against you, particularly with parenting matters involving your children.

The second negative influence of using social media is how an emotional or angry message may affect your children, immediate family and close friends. It is almost guaranteed that these people and many more will end up reading it.

Thirdly, a decision of a Magistrates Court in North Queensland, found that a derogatory comment, posted by a man about his ex wife on Facebook, amounted to defamation.

The post, which referred to the wife as "thieving, lying, money crazed" among other expletives, was found to be a defamation of the wife's character.

In that case, the post was removed by the husband less than 24 hours after it was posted, after finding out that the post was generally viewable on his Facebook page.

Nevertheless, the post was seen by mutual friends, and the husband was ordered to pay the wife the sum of $10,000.00 in compensation for the defamation of her character.

In considering how much to award the ex-wife in compensation, the Court considered the "grapevine" effect, noting that the post was not limited solely to his Facebook 'friends' but potentially to anyone who had access to their feed or timeline.

The fact that one of his 'friends' had saved the post, also meant that it could be further distributed (and in fact was sent to the wife) even once the post was removed.

So it is important to think twice before posting something on social media, regardless how hurt, emotional or angry you are feeling at the time.

Perhaps on social media, as well as in life, we should live by the saying "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all".


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