Splitting up: Can you demand your ex to remove images and content about you from their social media and not post about you in the future?
Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter. The world of social media is constantly evolving, and so too is its relationship with Family Courts around the country.
According to leading family lawyer, Fiona Reid, there has been a growing conversation on Australian soil about whether you can restrict your ex-partner’s power to post or discuss yourself or your children online, following a number of A-list celebrities’ ugly marriage breakdowns.
Fiona Reid is the founder of Reid Family Lawyers, one of Australia’s most respected family law firms with offices on the Northern Beaches and inner Sydney.
“Multiple Grammy Award winner, Adele, has made headlines for a controversial, unique key term included in her $280 million divorce settlement with her ex-husband,” Reid said.
“The singer-songwriter reached a deal with her ex in early 2021 not to write tracks about him as a mark of ‘respect’. With the two going their separate ways, Adele agreed to not sing about their failed marriage in order to finalise their two-year drawn out court proceedings and to protect their son, Angelo.
“While most Aussies, like myself, aren’t topping the charts with their ballads, the conversation in the courtroom is still becoming more and more common in regard to censoring ex-partners from discussing their previous relationship, or their children on a public platform. What many people don’t know is that there is provision in the Family Law Act which prevents publication by any electronic means which would have the effect of identifying a party, witness or child involved in family law proceedings. There are quite serious penalties for breaching this rule.”
According to Reid, the simple answer to if you can include, as part of your divorce settlement, that the other person must remove any past mentions of you from the public platforms or social media accounts, and refrain from doing so in the future, is yes.
“The court will always consider what is in the best interests of children in a family law dispute. This might include injuncting or restraining a person from making posts about the relationship and the children or referring someone who has breached the Family Law Act to the Attorney-General for criminal action.”
“Most commonly, this will occur if one party has a heavily documented past of posting inappropriate or derogatory content which identifies parties or children the subject of a dispute.
“Unfortunately, parents with shared legal custody often do not agree that their children should be regularly featured on online platforms. While it is a common assumption that you need both parents’ consent to post pictures of a minor child on public social media accounts, that is not always the case.”
According to Reid, the family courts may be reluctant to infringe on a parent’s right to feature their children in social media posts. However, at the same time, courts may recognise the potential danger of exposing children to child predators when pictures of minor children are posted on public social media profiles.
“If you are a parent who does not want images of your children on publicly viewed social media accounts and the court will not impose a restriction on the other parent, you should regularly monitor your ex-partner’s account and read the comments. If you see anything alarming and concerning, immediately contact the other parent and request that they remove the post. It is important to take a screen shot of the post and the concerning comments, in the unfortunate case that things escalate, or you find yourself back in a child custody court battle.
“If the other parent refuses to remove a concerning post, contact your legal representative. While the court may not initially be inclined to issue a restriction, if you can show that the postings are inappropriate or receiving disturbing comments, the court should be inclined to act.”
According to Reid, the same principles apply for if the other party is consistently posting alarming content about you, not just the children. Saving a copy of the post and comments are important pieces of evidence for your lawyer.
“If you believe your ex may incorporate content about you as part of their work or endeavours in the future, then seek to address this in your settlement discussions. Miley Cyrus has famously been accused of writing songs about Liam Hemsworth. Let’s face it, plenty of singers have created music shading an ex that has done them wrong. If you want to avoid this situation happening to you, whether it be through music, writing, or any other activity, seek to address it in the terms of your settlement.”