The Positives of Social Media in Family Law Matters

By October 10, 2016Family Law
Social Media

In this podcast, Accredited Family Law Specialist, Kay Rhodes discusses the positive implications of social media as a communication channel for family members.

Dan: There’s little doubt that the world has changed significantly because of technology; in particular in recent times social media. For many of us, social media has replaced the ways we used to communicate with others.

In the context of family law, however, using this channel as a mode of communication has both great opportunity and of course some risks.

Today I’m joined by Kay Rhodes, of Fox & Thomas, who is an accredited family law specialist. Kay, given your wealth of experience in family law matters, how have you seen social media facilitate communication well?
Kay: As you say, Dan, it really has assisted a lot of families. I see that social media, whether it be Facebook or even using things like FaceTime or Myspace or Snapchat, is a great way for teenagers to actually communicate with their parent they’re not living with. You can actually have a closed or a secret group between a parent and a child, and they can communicate that way using the messaging section, or uploading photographs. Particularly if the parent and the child are separated by distance.
Dan: Kay, I’m assuming that following a separation that there may be an initial inclination of the parties to encourage their children perhaps not to be talking about the separation et cetera on Facebook with others and what have you. Do you find that?
Kay: Yes, it does depend on the age of the children. What we do find that sometimes in the initial heat of the moment, if people are used to using Facebook as their therapist they will dump everything on Facebook. They think that they are telling their friends, and that it’s going to stay confidential. What they don’t realize is that their friends are not bound by this confidentiality.
We see reams of really awful diatribes against parents, or against each other, which end up on the back of affidavits. Your client cringes when they see it because it really is emotional stuff, which should be perhaps with a psychologist and certainly not on a platform which is able to be hacked, able to be used by other members of the public which you don’t actually realize they can actually see what you’re saying.
I usually say if what you write on anything which can be transferred to any other person, whether it be an email, a comment on Facebook, or a text, if it’s not something that you’re going to be proud of if it’s published on the front page of the Courier Mail, take your fingers off the keyboard. Don’t publish it. Because it will come back and it will bite you.

It may not be a great moment, but it might indicate to a family report writer that you’re not willing to participate in parenting or co-parenting with your former partner. It might indicate that you are undermining the children by the comments that you’re making about their mother or their father. You really need to take the moral high ground and not put those damaging and degrading things on anything which can be out of your control once you actually type it.


Kay what about the positives?


I’m pleased to say that I’ve seen so much good come out of modern technology. Just imagine if two parents who are separated by distance are co-parenting well. They set up a closed Facebook page, which is only for each other. It means that you can upload photographs, you can have a conversation about an issue regarding the children.

For example, Tommy has a parent-teacher interview in two weeks time, will you be able to get there? It is a much cheaper and easier way of communicating in those closed groups. If you go and put that in a public space, you really lose the trust and the confidence and confidentiality that you’re having with each other.

There’s no doubt that texting, email, it’s a great way for us all to communicate. We’re so busy, it’s so fast, it’s quick, you can say what you need to say. But say it politely. Treat the other person the way that you want to be treated.

The last thing of course is FaceTime, or Skype. What a wonderful way for particularly young children to engage with the absent parent. I’ve seen some marvelous things from FaceTime and from Skype. Videos of little girls at a ballet concert on the other side of the world. It means that the absent parent can participate.

There’s a lot more good, Dan, in my view to be garnered from all of our technology and social media. But you need to be careful that you’re not using it to vent.


That’s great information, Kay. Thanks for joining me.


Thanks, Dan. Nice to talk with you again.