The case of Stocker v Stocker was heard at the Supreme Court last week and acts as a stark reminder to be mindful of what you post on Social Media.
This was a libel case, involving a divorced couple and alleged defamatory posts on Facebook. The parties were married for 13 years, and divorced acrimoniously in 2012. Following the divorce, the wife posted some comments on her husband’s new partner’s Facebook. The wife alleged that the husband had ‘tried to strangle’ her, leaving red marks on her neck, which resulted in the husband being arrested, and that he had been arrested on other occasions too.
The husband commenced libel proceedings in respect of the comments made in 2012 and was successful in proving the comments were defamatory in 2016. The Judge held that the overall effect of the comments implied that he was a dangerous man and the ordinary reasonable reader would have understood the words meant that he had tried to kill her. The wife appealed and the Court of Appeal upheld the original decision. The Supreme Court granted permission to appeal, and the case was heard on 24th January 2019 and we eagerly await the outcome.
Regardless of the outcome of the Supreme Court, this case serves as a warning to couples going through a bitter divorce or separation, to be careful of the comments they make on Social Media.
Not only does this case outline the repercussions of posting comments on Social Media, it also demonstrates the time and expense it could take to resolve matters. The comments were posted in 2012 and the matter is still ongoing today, the wife also faces a bill for the husband’s costs in excess of £200,000.
The use of Social Media is increasingly cited in divorce petitions as being a factor that a marriage has broken down irretrievably, which may involve a party posting inappropriate material online. The unsuitable use of Social Media is also frequently raised as an issue in children proceedings, which prevents parents resolving child arrangements amicably. Using Social Media inappropriately can hinder and damage the progression of your case, and it is therefore extremely important to resist the urge to discuss your case online.
Our family team appreciate that going through a separation or divorce is very difficult, and is often acrimonious, but it is imperative that any concerns are dealt with in an appropriate manner and not aired through Social Media. Please be in touch with the family team if you would like any advice.
These notes have been prepared for the purpose of an article only. They should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice.