Custody battles can be messy and heartbreaking, so it’s understandable that a person going through such a thing would seek support and guidance from others who have been there.
According to a recent article from Buzzfeed News, in one part of the world, dads going through separations have turned to Facebook groups meant to offer support for that situation. Instead, fellow members are providing them with harmful and inaccurate advice.
Buzzfeed reports that there are several active Facebook groups filled with hundreds of men frustrated with Australia’s Family Court System. The advice they’re receiving to cope with those grievances include making video or audio recordings of their partners without their knowledge, recording court proceedings, refusing to acknowledge the sovereignty of Australian law, and representing oneself in court.
In the Buzzfeed article, Adam Jones, a family law solicitor, was able to share some insight on why so many dads going through a separation are even turning to social media as some of his clients have participated in these groups. “When you’re in a high conflict situation, you become anxious, and you become obsessed, and it becomes a bit of an echo chamber. Legal aid isn’t available unless you’re right down the bottom of the ladder. Facebook lawyers are, for many dads, the ‘go-to’ place.”
But Wendy Kayler-Thomson, Forte Family Lawyers partner and the Law Council of Australia’s Family Law Section’s immediate past chair, who was asked by Buzzfeed to review five examples of posts shared in these Facebook groups, deemed the advice ill-advised or promoting illegal activity.
In most circumstances, “it would be illegal for someone to surveil their ex-partners without their knowledge in order to get evidence of their behavior to use against them in court,” Kayler-Thomson said in a statement. “Even if the court uses their discretion to admit the recording into evidence. That person still might be charged with a criminal offense,” she said.
In the U.S., it depends where you live to determine if it’s legal to secretly record your spouse for evidence in your divorce. According to an article on divorcemag.com, penned by Robyn E. Ross, Esq, in the U.S., most states only require one party to consent to the conversation being recorded, but there are states that require both parties to consent to recording a conversation. Furthermore, “No matter what state you are in, you may not plant recording devices in your spouse’s vehicle or even rooms within your own home to secretly record your spouse having conversations to which you are not a party,” Ross advised.
And, is it legal to record every interaction, including court proceedings? Buzzfeed reports that doing so is illegal in Australia and punishment could include a fine of up to $8,000. According to a FindLaw blog post written by Ephrat Livni, Esq., in the U.S., “You can record court proceedings in a state where doing so does not violate court rules. But most states do prohibit court recordings and few allow cell phone use in a courtroom, so you may be breaking the rules by bringing a recording device in at all.”
Kayler-Thomson also warned against representing oneself in family court. “Family law disputes are highly emotional, and it can be difficult to objectively and correctly assess the strength of your position. It can also be difficult to understand how to best present your evidence and follow the rules of the court.”
Photos and memes that reveal the deep frustration of the members are posted frequently in these Facebook groups too. One, screengrabbed by Buzzfeed, said “Family Courts is a scam. Power to parents fighting this evil machine.” Another said, “The Family Courts are destroying men’s lives and their kids. Stop the war on dads.” Even more alarming, one post in a Facebook group with over 19,000 followers asked, “If a father was to grab his children and run on the 1st of December just to prove what it feels like to be alienated, is it wrong?”
On the Buzzfeed Facebook page, several users reacting to the story said that the family court system in the U.S. tends to be biased against dads. One user wrote, “Maybe if dads got a fairer chance, they wouldn’t have to resort to this.”
See the full article here.