One of the lessons people are learning about social media is that even if people think their content is private, it never really is. Publishing written content or photos/videos on platforms such as Facebook or Instagram can come back to haunt people both socially, and as we see in a recent case from the Ontario Court of Justice, legally.

The separation

The case being discussed today involves a dispute over child support, particularly how much child support the father should have to pay.

The mother and father had lived together from April 2011 to May 2012. They had one child, who lived with the mother following the parents’ separation. A temporary order was issued on September 12, 2012, which ordered the father to pay child support based on an annual income of $28,600. However, the couple got back together in November 2012, and the temporary order was abandoned shortly thereafter. They separated again on December 22, 2013, with the child once again living with the mother.  A temporary order was issued in the summer of 2014 with the father’s income determined to have been $22,800. He paid the mother $200 per month in support. By September of that year, the father had been ordered to provide a detailed financial disclosure order, something he failed to do.

Disputing the father’s income

The mother told the court she believes the father earned between $40,000-$45,000 per year, an amount much higher than what he claimed to have made. However, the father replied that he was unemployed and had been supporting himself through social assistance.

The mother testified that the father worked in construction, and that while they were living together he made $40,000-$45000 as well as “significant cash income” under the table. She told the court the father had manipulated his bank accounts in order to make it look like he had no assets, which allowed him to collect social assistance. In order to show that the father must have been making more than he claimed, she showed the court photos from his Facebook account where he was seen taking vacations to New York and Ecuador. He was also shown in photos attending sports events and nightclubs.

The father denied all of this, saying he was struggling to pay even the $200 per month from the order and that he had returned to school. He did admit to making some unreported income, but said it was only $2,000-$3,000 per year.

A matter of credibility

The court found the mother to be a credible witness, particularly in her explanation of the father’s income over the years. The court did not find the father to be a credible witness, particularly when it came to finances and work. He had failed to provide financial disclosure, which had been ordered five months before the trial. When it came time to explain the evidence from Facebook, he told the court that his friends and family had paid for everything. The court did not buy this, writing “All of this evidence corroborated the mother’s testimony that the father manipulates whatever system he can to obtain money.”

The court assigned the father an imputed income of $42,500 per year, and ordered him to pay child support in line with that amount retroactive to January 1, 2014.

Contact Gelman & Associates to learn how experienced family law lawyers can ensure the best possible support arrangement for your children. We can be reached at (844) 769-0737 or 1-844-769-0737 or online to book an initial consultation