By Lindsay Hayes, Articling student
We’ve all seen the posts of an over-sharer on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., whether it’s
disparaging comments about their ex or ‘not safe for work’ photos from a rough weekend. These dirty laundry posts can not only have damaging consequences, such as being fired or getting arrested ,but can also end up being used as damaging evidence in a court of Family Law.
A 2012 Harvard University study provided insight into why we share such personal information on social media. The study found through the use of MRI scans that “Self-disclosure was strongly associated with increased activation in brain regions that form the mesolimbic dopamine system”. A secondary study further found that activity in this brain region was increased when sharing thoughts to family and friends, and decreased when thoughts were kept private.
The trouble some Family Court litigants have distinguishing between what is appropriate for a public audience and what should be kept private has proven problematic to as described below.
In a motion for unsupervised access to his child, a father with a history of criminal behaviour posted pictures on Facebook, taken while driving, of his speedometer reading a speed of 100km/hour over the speed limit. The court determined that the father needed to show he could act as responsible adult before unsupervised access would be granted.
In one case a mother’s tweets about phone calls she made while intoxicated and about being hungover were led as evidence by her ex-spouse in a custody battle.
In another case a mother lost custody of her child in the case after images of her dancing on a bar and smoking marijuana were posted on Facebook and used as evidence against her.
The courts have made it clear that as long as social media posts meet the admissibility and relevancy requirements they can be used as documentary evidence.
The following should not be considered legal advice, but I recommend indulging in a piece of chocolate to release that dopamine rather than airing your dirty laundry on social media for all to see.