Social Media Boasting Torpedoes Child Support Reduction
C.O. aka C.G. v. N.G., No. 808 MDA 2015 (April 26, 2016)(non-precedential)
In 2014, Father petitioned to modify his support obligation due to a medical condition known as thalassemia major, which is an inherited blood disorder that is treated with transfusions to restore red blood cells. Father had stopped working full time as a Certified Public Accountant and had been unemployed for eight months. He previously earned $52,000 to $54,000 per year. At the time of his petition, Father was receiving food stamps, LIHEAP utility bill assistance and welfare medical benefits. His physician signed a Physician’s Verification Form certifying that he was unable to work and could not determine when he would be able to return.
On the other hand, Father maintained a LinkedIn profile stating that he owned a home-based accounting business, he was a licensed real estate agent, and he advertised his services as a credit counselor on Facebook. (It is unclear whether Father conducted any of these activities subsequent to filing his modification petition.) Father’s Twitter feed boasted about his travels to India, including a two-month trip subsequent to filing the petition for modification.
The trial court refused to admit the Physician Verification Form into evidence because it was stale and was not properly served 20 days in advance on the opposing party, as required by Rule 1910.29(b)(2). The trial court held that Father was capable of earning $50,000 per year by doing tax returns at home while he was receiving blood transfusions. Also, the trial court noted that Father might be eligible for Social Security disability benefits.
On appeal, Father was unsuccessful in overturning the support order, because his arguments concentrated on credibility determinations. The Superior Court concluded that Father failed to prove a substantial continuing involuntary decrease in his income.