Quality Over Quantity: Use of Social Media Content in Family Law Bundles

31 May, 2022

Following a recent judgment of the Grand Court Family Division, the Grand Court provided clarity on the use of evidence obtained from social media and recordings and recommended that a new Practice Direction be introduced on the volume of evidence and size of bundles filed in the Family Division.

in F v M[1],  Williams J recommended that:

  • Attorneys should carefully review the material and include only relevant and necessary documents in a single bundle.
  • Parties should take care when accessing their spouse’s private information on email and social media accounts, particularly if access to passwords have been shared during the course of the marriage.  Furthermore, recording phone conversations without the other person’s consent (whilst not illegal) amounts to conduct that is at best “discourteous” and at worst may inform the Court’s exercise of its discretion in making orders.
  • A rigorously enforced Practice Direction limiting the size of bundles in family cases be introduced.


An application was brought by the father for a Relocation Order returning the child of the marriage to the province in Canada where he lived and worked. The father claimed that the mother’s parenting was questionable, leading to claims that the child suffered from behavioural and educational problems because of the mother’s private and home life.

The mother resisted the application to return the child to Canada on the basis that the father was emotionally abusive and controlling and did not have the child’s best interests at heart.

After having summer access to his child, the father refused to return the child to the Cayman Islands, resulting in the mother successfully issuing proceedings for the child’s return pursuant to the Hague Convention on Child Abduction.

The Hearing

The father filed voluminous documentary evidence and exhibits including “a number of repetitive chronologies which had clearly been prepared by the father due to their formatting and content, in which injudicious and emotional language is on occasion used”. The evidence included posts from the mother’s social media accounts that the father did not have access to. The father admitted during cross-examination that he had set up a fake Instagram account to follow the mother and to gain information on her to raise questions about her ability to parent (in later court proceedings). The father used the mother’s private passwords to gain access to some of her online accounts, and recorded phone conversations with professionals without their knowledge or consent.


In delivering his judgment, Williams J found that:

  • “No family case requires thousands of irrelevant pages in fourteen lever arch bundles to be presented to the judge at a Family Division hearing”. The Court therefore recommended the Chief Justice consider issuing a rigorously enforced Practice Direction along the lines of those introduced by the President of the Family Division in England & Wales;
  • The Court found that the intrusive methods adopted by the father to delve into and monitor the mother’s life was “unattractive” and that “parents are entitled to move on with their lives and form new intimate relationships (as they both have done) without having to endure overly intrusive and microscopic dissection of the same by the other”;
  • In reaching his decision to return the child of the marriage to Canada as opposed to the particular province where the father lived and worked, Williams J specifically took into account the father’s conduct in surreptitiously obtaining information on the mother in an attempt to discredit her parenting; and
  • The Court held that although covert phone recording is not illegal, it was expected that the father at least acknowledge that such a course of conduct is “at best discourteous” and could result in a breakdown of the professional relationship.[2]


The judgment acts as a firm instruction to practitioners to comply with Practice Direction 11/2014 and any subsequent Practice Directions on the size and content of bundles in the Family Division.

The Court’s comments highlight a general concern that social media can be a disruptive and harmful tool in the context of a separation and further highlights that social media posts are public documents, and are therefore admissible in Court.

Coercive control now constitutes a form of domestic abuse and is often demonstrated by the content of private emails and messages.  The judgment by Williams J also acts as a stern warning to parties who, in the context of children or divorce proceedings, seek to obtain evidence surreptitiously online.

About Broadhurst LLC

Broadhurst LLC is a boutique law firm in the Cayman Islands with a range of expertise in dispute resolution and corporate law.  With a presence in Grand Cayman for over 24 years, the firm is known most recently for its successes in bankruptcy and insolvency litigation as well as its completion of one of Cayman’s largest telecommunications and broadcasting acquisitions.  Please send all inquiries to Broadhurst LLC partner, Ian Lambert by email to ian@broadhurstllc.com or by calling +1 (345) 949-7237.

[1] Unreported, Grand Court, 20 August 2021. Broadhurst LLC acted for the Respondent.

[2] The Office of the Ombudsman of the Cayman Islands recently determined in Enforcement Order dated 18 March 2021, that recording without the specific knowledge and/or consent of the other person amounts to a breach of the Cayman Islands Data Protection Law (2017).

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