Without doubt, a family law matter can be extremely emotional and stressful times for all parties involved. A reaction by ‘blowing off steam’ social media would be a very natural reaction for a person under such circumstances. However, doing so might land you in gaol.

Section 121 of the Family Law Act 1975 makes it an offence to publish or otherwise disseminate to the public, any account of or part of Court proceedings which makes it possible to identify and of the following:

  1. a) a party to proceedings;
  2. b) a person related to or associated with a party to proceedings; or
  3. c) any witness in the proceedings.

A person found guilty of such offence upon conviction may be in prison for a period up to one year.

The philosophy behind drafting such provision is the right to privacy of the parties and the protection of children.

When the Family Law Act came into force in 1975, the internet, social media and the likes were decades away from becoming the every day reality they are in 2022.

Accordingly, Section 121 of the Act considers “publishing” to mean as in a newspaper, periodical publication, by radio broadcast or television or other electronic means. Whilst these are still prevalent in 2022, the inclusion of the term “other electronic means” encompasses the internet and social media.

In the recent case of Suris & Suris [2021] FedCFamC1, the Respondent, Mr Suris, was referred to the Australian Federal Police by Her Honour Justice Carew for investigation for breaches of Section 121.

During the acrimonious parenting dispute, Mr Suris filmed a documentary about his children and the impact of the Court proceedings, with the hope it would assist his case. Mr Suris had created a website to show the documentary, as well as making numerous social media posts, some of which included the full names and photographs of his children. This is a flagrant breach of Section 121 and it’s overarching goal of the protection of children.

The case of Suris is certainly a more extreme examples of breaching Section 121, however according to the wording, publishing anything that makes it possible to identify a party, a relation or a witness, could be considered to be a breach.

Accordingly, one must stop and consider the above before using social media platforms such as Facebook or Twitter to ‘blow off steam’ about family law matters.

For advice and assistance on all matters associated with Family Law disputes, contact Everingham Solomons where Helping You is Our Business.

Click here for more information on Lachlan Ennis.