As family lawyers we know that social media is an increasing feature in many divorce cases with Facebook being regularly cited in Divorce petitions as either a reason for or evidence of a relationship breakdown. Many a client will see posts either first hand or referred to by another which lead them to suspect an affair and will use this as an example of unreasonable behaviour. Facebook posts can also impact on children cases. There have been cases in the courts where a parent has had to be ordered not to post any information on Facebook which might identify a child. Sometimes one parent can vent their frustrations about the arrangements for the children, posting derogatory comments about the other parent all potentially further complicating an already difficult family situation.
However it is a fact that Facebook and other social media sites are a feature of most families lives one way or another and this week a court judgement in a children’s case demonstrates that Facebook is now becoming a tool the courts will consider using as a method to enforce orders.
In brief, the case of Sanchez v Obez was a case centred around a polish father who retained his daughter in Poland despite two court orders to return her. The latest hearing of the case focused on the mother’s application for the father to be committed to prison for breaching the previous orders. Unusually the case was heard in the Father’s absence and an order for his committal to prison was made even though he was not in court. To take this unusual step the Judge had to be satisfied that the Father had been served with the papers and knew of the application that was being made to the court. Solicitors for the mother presented evidence to demonstrate that Father had been served and made aware of the application via several methods including Facebook and that he had also been sent a court bundle via the social media site. The fact that Father then blocked Mother’s solicitors on Facebook was perhaps good evidence that there postings and messages had been received!
Whilst this case focused in the main on more serious issues it is an example of the increasing impact and use of Social Media in family law cases and it is quite possible that increasingly that Facebook and other social media sites will feature in cases not only where posts can be used as evidence of behaviour but as a tool to effect and demonstrate service.
Read the case here: Sanchez v Oboz & Anor  EWHC 235 (Fam) (06 February 2015)