According to Hetherington Legal family law specialist Jennifer Hetherington, separating couples are increasingly using social media sites to fight bitter relationship breakdown wars, despite some being under domestic violence orders (DVOs).
Ms Hetherington said although many of these cases seem to be falling through the cracks, under Queensland law, monitoring an ex’s social media pages could be classed as domestic violence.
“Under the Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 2012, the definition of domestic violence includes unauthorised surveillance of a person, such as monitoring a person’s account with a social networking internet site,” she said.
“The issue the courts may have to address is to what degree an ex checking your Facebook or uploading their own posts about the relationship could constitute a breach of a DVO.”
Ms Hetherington noted that the current unrestrained use of social media could “backfire”, especially if that person was seeking parenting orders from courts.
“As a mediator I’m especially worried if children are caught up in feuding exes fighting on social media. Parents owe it to their children to minimise the stress of a relationship breakdown and conduct themselves in a respectful manner,” she said.
“Every family lawyer will tell you the essential priority in any family split is the wellbeing of the children and minimising any of the fallout of the separation upon them.”
Ms Hetherington’s comments come after reports of a social media war between high-profile Sydney couple Salim Mehajer and his estranged wife Aysha, who recently took out an apprehended violence order (AVO) on Mr Mehajer with terms stating that he must not contact her or approach her within 50 metres.
While the social media incident did not involve parenting issues, Ms Hetherington said that as it was widely reported by the media, she is concerned it could influence the behaviour of others.
“My worry is that social media could become the main way people like this pair communicate. A disintegrating relationship should not be fought out in the public eye, especially if they use influential social media platforms to portray their side of the case to the outside world,” she said.
“In particular if one partner has taken out a DVO against their ex, then any sparring via social media could easily cross the line into domestic violence, and media reporting of such exchanges needs to be considered in this light.”