As has been discussed in a previous blog, social media has become an everyday part of most people’s lives and, as a result, courts have increasingly been asked to decide disputes by looking at social media posts as part of court cases. While these issues are often decided as incidental to the main legal question at hand, the following case illustrates the importance and dangers of social media posts in family law cases.
In this case, the father had moved to vary court orders with respect to child support. The two previous court orders totalled $8,710 in a costs award and $15,470.82 in outstanding arrears for child support.
The father contented that he has suffered business and health-related challenges since the support orders had been made which have impacted his ability to comply with them. The father claimed that he had experienced health challenges, had had to close down his business and was being pursued by creditors. He also claimed that he was exploring a career change to earn a more stable income, though he did not disclose any details about these potential changes except that he had enrolled in an insurance broker course.
The mother brought a cross-motion to strike the father’s pleadings because he has failed to pay outstanding costs orders and there were significant child support arrears.
At the outset, the court stated that there were several issues with respect to the father’s credibility.
It noted that the father had sworn a financial statement in May 2014 that he earned no income, yet a month later he made a mortgage application and represented that he earned a $150,000 income. The court stated: “Either the father lied to the court then or he misrepresented to the lender his real income.” The father’s lawyer had stated that the father misrepresented his income to the lender.
The court then turned to the information provided by the mother relating to the father’s social media posts. Included in the mother’s affidavit were Instagram photos of a Rolex, motorcycle, and condominium posted to his Instagram account. The father disputed the contents of these posts, by telling the court the that the Rolex was not his, that he had purchased and sold the motorcycle for a profit and that the condominium was a showpiece of his workmanship. The court did not accept his arguments. It stated:
“Individually these isolated representations may be innocent but, collectively viewed, they raise serious questions about the father’s credibility, particularly when viewed in light of his earlier misrepresentation to his mortgage lender as noted […] above. Also, why would a person be posting on an Instagram account pictures representing a certain lifestyle when, as the father has represented to this court, he does not enjoy that lifestyle at all?”
As a result, the court stated that in its opinion it was clear that the father was not credible when dealing with his financial affairs and that the evidence demonstrated a regrettable lack of a consistent support payments history. The court concluded:
“In my view, the triggering event in the case before this court […] is the wilful non-compliance with costs awards and payment of support given the father’s unpersuasive explanations about his income, in particular his Instagram postings.”
Therefore, the court decided that the appropriate remedy in the case was to give the father an opportunity to comply with his outstanding cost and support obligations. After he did so, the court stated that he may renew his motion to vary the support order, but, failing this, his pleadings on the non-parenting issues should be struck.
At Feigenbaum Law, our goal is to help you move forward following the breakdown of a relationship while retaining as much financial stability as possible and ensuring your children are provided for. Mark Feigenbaum is able to counsel his clients on all potential risks that may result from a family law dispute, not just those related strictly to the breakdown of a marriage. Contact Mark online or call him at (416) 777-8433or toll-free at (877) 275-4792 to book a consultation.