Thanks to the advent of social media, friends and family are now able to stay more connected than ever before, while people across the globe are able to stay connected to the constantly evolving news stream.
Interestingly, law enforcement officials here in the United States are increasingly turning to arguably one of the most popular forms of social media — Facebook — to crack down on those who fail to meet their child support obligations.
To illustrate, consider a recent case out of Milwaukee, where prosecutors charged a 23-year-old man with three felony counts of failure to pay child support for his three-year-old child after he posted pictures to his Facebook account showing him posing with a significant amount of cash and several bottles of liquor.
The criminal complaint indicates that the young man failed to make any of his court-ordered $150 month payments over a three-year span. While he was served with an arrest warrant in February, he failed to appear in court and is still the subject of an active arrest warrant. If convicted, he faces up to 11 years in prison.
“Facebook has become a repository for information that we may not … know about,” said Kent Lovern, the Milwaukee County Chief Deputy District Attorney.
It’s important to understand, however, that law enforcement officials cannot simply conduct random searches of Facebook to find child support scofflaws.
Instead, they must receive a complaint about a Facebook profile and launch an investigation into the matter. When this investigation yields sufficient evidence to support a finding of probable cause, a prosecutor can request a court order commanding Facebook to grant law enforcement officials access to the person’s profile.
Once this access is gained, investigators can begin to look for information, which suggests that a person has been less than forthcoming about their assets/ability to pay child support.
“It is an investigative tool,” said Lovern. “It can be effective in assisting in the investigation and prosecution of certain criminal targets.”
It is worth noting that Facebook is typically very cooperative when presented with such court orders, and devotes considerable resources to evaluating and enforcing these requests for information.
Stay tuned for more from our Ft. Worth family law blog …
To learn more about child support or post-divorce issues, contact an experienced and skilled legal professional.
This post is for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice.
ABC News, “Facebook money pics bust dad for allegedly dodging child support,” Alexa Valiente, March 22, 2013