Father’s “Under the Table” Income Gets Imputed to Him; Facebook Helps Convince Court
Beware: Facebook sees all.
More and more these days, evidence from social media is being used by former couples against each other in court. Embattled spouses will comb each other’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to find evidence supporting their version of the story, often in support of their contradictory positions on matters such as what the other spouse earns.
This was the situation in Gonzalez v. Garcia. The separated parents were before the court to sort out the extent of the 26-year-old father’s child support obligations toward the 3-year old child they had together.
The child lived with the 29-year-old mother, who was asking for child support. She was currently in school and supporting herself and the child on Ontario Student Loans, together with small amounts the father had been paying. She asked the court to impute income to the father at a $45,000-per-year level, and order him to pay support accordingly in keeping with the Child Support Guidelines.
For his part, the father claimed he could not afford to pay child support, since he was currently unemployed and on social assistance. He claimed he was being supported by his parents and his new girlfriend. However, as part of a prior hearing in which he declared to have earned about $23,000 for the year based on his tax returns, he did admit to earning $2,000 or $3,000 per year under-the-table.
The mother countered his claims, insisting that his undeclared income was much higher: He actually earned between $40,000 and $45,000 per year working in construction while they lived together. The court explained the nature of the mother’s testimony on this point:
The mother stated that the father was employed for most of the time they were together. She said that he would earn income under his social insurance number and would also earn income using his father’s social insurance number. The purpose of doing this, she said, was that both would be able to claim employment insurance. In addition, the mother said that the father earned significant cash income in this time period.
The mother testified that the father manipulated bank accounts in order to show he had no assets. This way, he could obtain benefits from social services and avoid creditors. She said that he bragged about his ability to do this. She testified that the father’s mother cashed his cheques from work and gave the cash to the father and to her.
The mother provided evidence from the father’s Facebook page to establish that he is living a comfortable lifestyle. This included evidence of two trips to New York and a trip to Ecuador in the past year; evidence of tickets to sports events and concerts and many pictures of the father partying at nightclubs.
The court accepted the mother’s evidence on this point, finding that she was a credible witness who provided considerable detail about the father’s work history and financial affairs. In contrast, the father was vague in his testimony and lacked credibility. He was also cavalier about fulfilling his obligation to provide full disclosure. After describing a sort of “shell game” in which the father manipulated his bank accounts to avoid revealing his true assets creditors, the court noted:
The father acknowledged that the Facebook entries provided by the mother were authentic. He denied paying for any of his trips, sports or concert tickets, or the multiple alcoholic beverages appearing before him in the pictures. He claimed that these were all paid for by friends and family. He was not credible.
The court ordered the father to pay child support based on an imputed income of $42,500. It also ordered him to pay retroactive support, since it found the mother’s request “modest and reasonable.”
For the full text of the decision, see:
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