Father’s Instagram Account Contradicts Claims Of Poverty

Written on behalf of Arbesman Hamilton LLP

We have written before about the ways in which social media intersects with family and estate law. Emerging technologies continue to play an interesting role in the courts. A recent decision from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice highlights the impact social media can have in a spousal and  child support dispute.

The original support order

While the decision does not give too much detail about the family history, the court did note that the original child support order was made in 2009. The mother and father had two children while married. The father was ordered to pay $1,073 per month based on an imputed income of $72.800, as well as spousal support in the amount of $800 per month.

The father failed to honour the order, and by August 2017 the father owed $145,000 inclusive of arrears, interest and penalties.

A request to lower support payments

In 2017 the father commenced an application to vary the original order. He testified that he moved to British Columbia following the separation and allowed himself to fall behind in support payment. He testified that after moving, his income dropped to $33,673 in 2008, with that amount falling each year after, with only $11,323 being earned in 2010. He stated he began to drink and ended up on the street in Edmonton where he panhandled. He met his former fiancé in 2012 and claimed to have sobered up. Still, though, he claims to have not been able to earn anywhere near the $72,800 he was imputed to have made in 2009. He told the courts he currently works as a bricklayer for a company owned by his former fiancé.

Instagram’s role in the evidence

The court relied on Instagram photos to both confirm some of the father’s claims while disproving others. Photos showed that he did in fact meet his former fiancé in 2012 as he claimed. However, his claim that he was living in relative poverty in a basement apartment costing $400 per month (while also paying daycare for a child he had with his former fiancé) was not as easy to confirm. Photos on his Instagram account show him taking a number of trips to countries including Columbia, Portugal, and France. Another photo from his former fiance’s mother congratulates him for purchasing a home in Columbia. The court noted that “any one of these trips would have used up much of (the father’s) declared income for the applicable year, considering the support that he has been forced to pay through the agency of the Alberta enforcement authorities.” He claimed to have purchased the flights using credit card points, but failed to provide evidence to support this. The court found, “ I simply do not believe (the father) when he says that the trips that he has taken were purchased through a points card which reflected his at work gas purchases.  This means that, assuming (the father) is telling the truth when he says his finances are completely separate from those of (his former fiancé), that he is paying for the trips from his own resources, which remain undisclosed to this court.”

The court ultimately concluded that the father was making more money than he disclosed, likely through cash  payments from his former fiancé, and as a result the court rejected the father’s application.

Contact Arbesman Hamilton LLP early in your separation to understand your rights and obtain the best possible child support arrangement for your children. Our firm and its forerunners have been advising clients on child support and other family law matters since 1953. We remain committed to upholding the principles established by our distinguished predecessors: combining big firm results with a small firm relationship, and an overall commitment to always put our clients’ best interests first. Contact us online or at 416-481-5604 to book a consultation.