Facebook: Securing a warrant in a child support matter

As this blog has noted in prior select posts, Internet social media sites have exploded with relevance across a broad spectrum of family law and divorce-related concerns over the past couple years.

Regularly recurring stories underscore how the cavalier use of a site such as Facebook — for example, as a repository for pictorial evidence of a lavish, criminal or generally injudicious lifestyle — can backfire on an online user in a child custody or visitation dispute, child support matter or property division determination.

The recommendation of commentators who closely follow social media trends and developments is this: Be circumspect online and maintain a responsible, measured presence.

Even doing that, though, is sometimes not enough.

The case of a fitness trainer based in southern California attests to that, and has broad relevance across the country, including in Georgia.

The trainer — a father who left Milwaukee years ago and last made child support payments for his daughter in 1996 — is wanted by Wisconsin authorities on six felony counts of unpaid support that total more than $100,000.

Law enforcement officials went straight to his Facebook page in an effort to find him, since they have had problems locating him. When nothing helpful surfaced on his “public” page, authorities took a second step: They served Facebook with a search warrant on all the information existing behind the public page.

Facebook complied by providing a CD with extensive information that included pictures, messages, comments and a friend list of the non-payer.

In commenting on the matter, a Facebook spokesperson said that the social media company cooperates fully with law enforcement agencies in such matters and that it “adheres to all applicable federal laws.”

The story is certainly food for thought for online users with outstanding legal obligations who maintain an information-heavy social media presence behind their publicly available profile.

Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “Investigators tap Facebook for details in child support case,” John Diedrich, Aug. 3, 2012

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