Mr. No-Pay…You Can Run, But You Can’t Hide.

GEO#1Family law lawyers now have access to information that can transform a case from an up-hill battle to a slam-dunk, and it’s all thanks to the internet.

Case in point: I have a client whose ex-husband, a venture capitalist, stopped paying his child support about one year ago. Exhibiting the patience of a saint, my client bided her time, hopeful her ex would reinstate his payments and make up the arrears. Didn’t happen.

She then contacted my office and the legal process began. Her ex was obliged to provide the usual financial documents including income tax returns and corporate financial statements. His tax returns showed nominal income and gosh, darn, he said that all of his businesses were insolvent so he hadn’t bothered to have his accountant prepare financial statements.

With a little help from the internet, we learned he was selling his home with an asking price of just over $900,000.00. After the usual land title searches, we found out he had already purchased a new home in another community. He said he was downsizing. He paid about $850,000.00 for his new home. It was a lovely estate property, larger than his last home, in a less expensive rural area.

Next stop was his Linkedin page and from there we simply googled his name and the names of his corporations. Here’s what we found.

Earlier that year, he made an offer of $25 million to purchase a golf course/housing development project that was very close to his new home and in financial trouble. Press releases abounded announcing the pending acquisition and his superior business acumen.

Several years earlier he had been a finalist for an entrepreneur of the year award. He was on the Board of his local Chamber of Commerce and associated with at least two consulting firms touting his business expertise. His allegations of insolvency were not born out. His only business debt was related to a wine store he operated. He was paying $1000.00 per month to pay down the $40,000.00 debt, $1000.00 more than he was paying for his two kids!

With this information and his feeble explanations, he no longer looked as broke as he said he was. My client got her happy ending when a judge ordered Mr. No-Pay to pay up asap!

It’s not always this easy, but his “high profile” doomed any chance of a judge buying what he was selling. And don’t get me started on the gems you can find on Facebook!

You can run, but you can’t hide from the internet!

Mr. No-Pay: You Can Run, But You Can’t Hide

DSC01152_2 (2)_2Family law lawyers now have access to information that can transform a case from an up-hill battle to a slam-dunk, and it’s all thanks to the internet.

Case in point: I have a client whose ex-husband, a venture capitalist, stopped paying his child support about one year ago. Exhibiting the patience of a saint, my client bided her time, hopeful her ex would reinstate his payments and make up the arrears. Didn’t happen.

She then contacted my office and the legal process began. Her ex was obliged to provide the usual financial documents including income tax returns and corporate financial statements. His tax returns showed nominal income and gosh, darn, he said that all of his businesses were insolvent so he hadn’t bothered to have his accountant prepare financial statements.

With a little help from the internet, we learned he was selling his home with an asking price of just over $900,000.00. After the usual land title searches, we found out he had already purchased a new home in another community. He said he was downsizing. He paid about $850,000.00 for his new home. It was a lovely estate property, larger than his last home, in a less expensive rural area.

Next stop was his Linkedin page and from there we simply googled his name and the names of his corporations. Here’s what we found.

Earlier that year, he made an offer of $25 million to purchase a golf course/housing development project that was very close to his new home and in financial trouble. Press releases abounded announcing the pending acquisition and his superior business acumen.

Several years earlier he had been a finalist for an entrepreneur of the year award. He was on the Board of his local Chamber of Commerce and associated with at least two consulting firms touting his business expertise. His allegations of insolvency were not born out. His only business debt was related to a wine store he operated. He was paying $1000.00 per month to pay down the $40,000.00 debt, $1000.00 more than he was paying for his two kids!

With this information and his feeble explanations, he no longer looked as broke as he said he was. My client got her happy ending when a judge ordered Mr. No-Pay to pay up asap!

It’s not always this easy, but his “high profile” doomed any chance of a judge buying what he was selling. And don’t get me started on the gems you can find on Facebook!

You can run, but you can’t hide from the internet!

Divorcing Couple Ordered to Exchange Social Media Passwords

By now everyone should know that Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. can provide fertile ground for discovering information about your neighbour, your kids and most importantly, your ex-wife. Recently Judge Kenneth Schluger ordered a divorcing Connecticut couple, Stephen and Courtney Gallion, to exchange their Facebook and dating website passwords.

It seems that Mr. Gallion found some incriminating information about his wife while surfing the web on the computer he shared with her. Courtney Gallion had posted comments about their children and her feelings about their role in her life that her husband thought might be useful for him in his goal to obtain custody of their children.

During a deposition of Ms. Gallion, her husband’s lawyer asked her to provide passwords for her Facebook account and two dating sites she had joined: EHarmony and Match. Her lawyer initially refused to reveal the passwords but later relented.

Upon releasing the passwords, Ms. Gallion texted a close friend and asked her to change the passwords and delete some messages she had posted. That’s when the matter came before Judge Schluger as Mr. Gallion sought to prevent his wife from deleting messages and asked the judge to order the exchange of passwords.

The Court made the orders sought and directed that neither of the parties could visit the websites of the other and post messages purporting to be the other.

But it is not just divorce cases where social media can play an evidentiary role. In a case in Pennsylvania a professional racecar driver sued the owner of a motor speedway for injuries suffered during a race.

The Court ordered the plaintiff to provide his Facebook and MySpace passwords which revealed photos of a fishing trip and a jaunt to the Daytona 500 which undermined the plaintiff’s assertions of physical injury. (McMillan v. Hummingway Speedway #113-2010 CD, Pennsylvania, Sept. 9, 2010)

In another case the Court became a “friend” of the litigant so the Judge could personally review the Facebook postings, looking for relevant evidence in another personal injury case. (Offenback v. Bowman 10- CV 1789 Pennsylvania October 2011).

So, what happened to privacy? It appears that litigation trumps any expectation of privacy in our new world of social media.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang