Facebook, Other Social Media Coming Into Play in Child Support Cases

Facebook, Twitter and other social media websites are marketed to the public as a way to maintain interpersonal connections, and as a source of entertainment. However, the value of social media as a data-mining tool is increasingly coming to the forefront in contexts that can have important, real-world consequences.

One of those contexts is the courtroom. Of course, everyone has heard the news stories about hapless criminals who post evidence of their malfeasance online. Yet, the power of social media in the courtroom often operates on a much more subtle level. More and more, Facebook and similar sites are being utilized in family-law cases in addition to criminal prosecutions.

How Is Social Media Becoming Relevant To Family Law Cases?

In one recent high profile case, authorities used Facebook to track down Raul Cardona Jr., operator of a Hollywood personal training business. While Cardona was running a successful business in California, it turned out he neglected to pay more than $100,000 in child support back in his hometown of Milwaukee. Investigators filed a search warrant with Facebook, and used information from Cardona's own postings to track his location and fix his income.

It is not always so bombastic when social media plays into child-support cases. It is, however, relatively common. Social media evidence is a key part of hundreds of family law cases every year.

So what is all that information pouring out of Facebook or Twitter good for in a family-law case? Social media sites can provide evidence of an individual's communications, location at a given time, specific actions and even state of mind. This information is not only useful in setting the amount of child support to be paid, it can filter into other areas of a divorce or any family-law proceeding, like custody schedules, property division and spousal maintenance. For example, in a recent custody case, a father was awarded custody in part due to evidence supporting his claim that the mother did not properly care for her children. Facebook evidence showed that she spent much of her day playing Farmville and other games, even at times when her children were tardy for school.

Imagine that one spouse is claiming indigence and an inability to pay higher alimony or child support amounts; a series of Facebook pictures that show lavish nights out would tend to counter that argument. Conversely, in one real life case, a woman claimed she needed lifetime alimony because she had become disabled during the marriage. Yet, evidence gathered from her Facebook and MySpace accounts showed that despite her claim of disability, the woman was an avid and active belly dancer. Based on this evidence, the judge denied life-time alimony.

Watch What You Post, and Call an Illinois Child Support Lawyer for Help

The bottom line is that if you're not careful with what you post (or what you allow your friends to post), your own social media profile could come back to bite you. Even something that might seem completely innocent to you can be taken out of context and used against you.

While you need to protect yourself online in a family law case, you also need an attorney who can help use social media to your advantage. If a child support problem or some other family law issue is looming in your life, talk to an experienced Illinois family-law attorney today.