Is your ex harassing you through the courts? When is going to court over and over again abuse of process?
Ontario Superior Court of Justice (ONSC) intervened when a lawyer and engineer breached repeated court orders and withheld information from his spouse. The couple separated in 2015 and started divorce proceedings two years later. With five children between six and 17, and two adult children from a prior marriage, resolving who was responsible for paying the bills was pressing.
When finances are in question, the court makes the final decision.
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Who pays the bills?
The dispute got its start when the husband argued that despite his education, his wife was the family breadwinner. The couple ran a law firm together and she controlled not only the companies, but all of the family’s assets, he said. The law firm was in her name, as were the matrimonial home and other companies the couple had started during their marriage. She had returned to school to become a mediator and therapist, while he had been highly involved with caring for their children. He asked the court to terminate his wife’s spousal support, dismiss their nanny and allow their home to be sold or refinanced to pay the household and mortgage expenses.
Facts in dispute
The wife disputed his claims. She had been unemployed since 1998 and while she had studied various careers, she had not worked at any of them. The wife argued she had dropped out of university to raise the couple’s children. She admitted to helping out at the law firm, but said that included buying food for the office fridges and helping design a logo, business card, website and signs.
The companies were very specialized, she said, and while they were in her name, her husband was “the mastermind behind them”. She agreed she had hosted dinner and Christmas parties for clients and staff, but said she currently relied on monthly child benefits from government and money borrowed from family to pay the mortgage and household expenses.
When a court order is breached
With several court orders for financial disclosure, spousal support and payment of household and child care expenses breached, each argued the other was at fault.
The husband had vowed to provide the court with personal and corporate tax returns. This hadn’t happened he alleged because his wife was withholding information he needed to finalize them. Her actions frustrated his ability to comply with three previous court orders. His lawyer asked the court for proof she had remedied this breach. The wife should provide the financial information and pay the husband’s legal fees and court costs, his lawyer argued.
Read more: Child Mediation Process
The wife disagreed. She said she had co-operated. The couple both acknowledged he had removed two home computers he claimed contained accounting records he needed to complete the corporate income taxes. Her lawyer said the husband’s pleadings should be struck and her court costs paid. The wife should also be allowed to refinance their matrimonial home, where she lived with their children.
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Disclosing finances obligatory
As courts have previously ruled:
“The most basic obligation in family law is the duty to disclose financial information. This requirement is immediate and ongoing.
“Failure to abide by this fundamental principle impedes the progress of the action, causes delay and generally acts to the disadvantage of the opposite party. It also impacts the administration of justice. Unnecessary judicial time is spent and the final adjudication is stalled.”
Court refuses to strike pleadings
With the couple still disputing many facts and issues, the court refused to strike any pleadings. That included the husband’s request to be relieved of paying spousal support, household expenses or their nanny’s wages. The judge sided with the wife, finding her ex’s allegations “unreasonable” and the couple’s parenting and financial issues “both complicated and high conflict”.
The husband had previously told the court he had all the information he required to provide five years of personal and corporate tax refunds. He confirmed significant amounts were owing. Now he claimed to be missing needed information. The tax documents were incomplete or unprepared. This financial disclosure, the judge said, was not only obligatory, but required “for this family’s survival.”
Ex Harassing You Through The Courts
Had the wife thwarted his efforts? The record showed otherwise. It was true that she had removed him from some business and other accounts. But that was in response to hundreds of thousands of dollars he had removed without consent since their separation, she claimed. ONSC found the wife had no ulterior motive to frustrate or sabotage her husband. And the husband’s timeline didn’t add up. If his allegations were true, why had he delayed asking for the records for so long?
ONSC ruled the husband’s request to strike his wife’s pleadings and for more disclosure from his ex were “retaliatory’ and, where his taxes were concerned, “designed to avoid his obligations”. The requests were disproportional, unreasonable and over-reaching, the court found. In future, the wife would only be required to respond if an accountant or chartered business valuator asked for records from an account the husband could no longer access.
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Providing proof of income
In return, the wife was compelled to prove what her income and earning power were. She was required by the court to provide her tax returns and notices of assessment, proof of her education and affidavits showing her employment history and all efforts she had made to find work since separating.
Those records are important because both parents have financial and parenting obligations to minor or adult children with mental or physical disabilities. Before their separation, the couple lived a luxurious lifestyle due to the husband’s income. Since separating, his wife claimed to have falled into dire financial circumstances when he failed to pay for anything, from spousal support to their children’s dental work, counselling and extracurricular activities.
The high cost of sarcasm
She called the delays and breaches “flagrant and by the insidious design in his efforts to destroy her.” The judge agreed with her lawyer that the husband’s communications were “cavalier and sarcastic”. He ordered the husband to pay the outstanding spousal support, household, nanny and other expenses. The tab was over $34,000.
When your court case seems to go on forever, it may be abuse of process. If you are locked in a long court battle, call our family law firm toll free at 1-844-466-6529
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