Courtly Impressions

Many people will have had the opportunity to appear in court at least once in their life, even if it was just to contest a traffic ticket. The procedures itself are controlled by a number of specific rules and precedents, and the setting is by definition solemn and subject to rigorous etiquette about decorum. The family courts in Ontario are no different. As a result, family court judges seldom have the freedom to discuss the more human components of the issues that are brought before them for settlement. This brief part offers a look into certain Ontario judges’ inner views as they were articulated in a few court decisions with the goal of teaching readers valuable lessons on what not to do in a family law dispute. The cases that follow offer sobering guidance on how to handle family law conflicts, straight from experienced judges.

Court Says: Don’t Use Kids in a Tug of War

The terrible and frequent situation where separating parents have put their children in a position to get back at one another is illustrated by an Ontario judgment.[1] In this instance, the couple had two children: a 11-year-old girl and a 15-year-old boy. Which of the two of them would have primary residence of each child was one of the numerous concerns to be resolved when they separated after more than 22 years of marriage. Both children stayed wit the mother when they initially separated, however the 15-year-old and mother fought at one point, and the mother was charged with assault (later acquitted).

While the daughter remained with the mother while the son moved in with the father. The father’s previous child support responsibilities were modified appropriately. However, one year after the alleged incident, the son unexpectedly moved back home wit the mother. In retaliation, the father without from the mother the majority of his son’s possessions, including his winter coat, school uniforms, and health care. Additionally, he unilaterally lowered his child support payments and stopped paying the mother’s spousal support.

As a result, the mother was compelled to file an application wit the court asking for her full support entitlement to be reinstated. When analyzing the situation, the court noted that the son has previously been given the freedom to select who he lived with, raising questions about the father’s motivations in seeking to impose new living arrangements at this point. In the end, the court decided that the son should live with his mother, but it also stated that it would revisit the issue if the child changed his mind with the warning that the son’s justifications would be closely examined.

Obsessed Husband’s Court Access is Curbed

Nowadays, its not unusual for the typical individual to have encountered the family court system personally or at the very least know someone who has. Stories concerning contentious divorces and tumultuous separations are frequently discussed at dinner parties, and with that, the judges in the Ontario family court system have no doubt been exposed to it all. Because of this, a sequence of rulings in the case Kerton v. Kerton[2] are significant, both for the judge’s observations and the final result in one of them.

Disputes over the smallest minutiae of parenting, such as the extent of the father’s daily telephone access to the child and whether supervised access should be extended, consumed 8 years of litigation and $500,000 in legal bills that the father alone claimed to have paid. The father, who was self-represented was the subject of a restraining order, filed what he deemed pleadings, but they were really hundreds of pages of affidavits. The father also owed more than more than $80,000 in unpaid court costs and was behind on more than $10,000 in support payments.

The question of whether the support orders were still enforceable erose after the father ultimately filed bankruptcy. The court determined that this was one of those rare circumstances in which the judge would have to exert some control over the litigant’s unrestricted entitlement to the have access to the legal system, maybe out of subdued irritation. Despite this ruling, the father then filed another application and a number of motions, all of which were dismissed by the court. He had not provided child support for a substantial amount of time, owing a sizable amount in debts, and have been receiving social assistance since declaring bankruptcy. Before he could even file a request for authorization to file more motions, the court ordered him to pay costs.

Husband Barred from his Own Divorce Trial

In Purcaru v. Purcaru,[3] the Ontario Court of Appeal determined that although it may not happen frequently, courts have the authority to strike out a party’s pleadings and essentially prevent them from taking part in their own legal processes. In this instance, the husband and wife had two children and were married for 7.5 years. The couple split up in 2003, and the wife filed for divorce in 2004. However, their legal dispute was bitter and lengthy. Over the course of the next few years, there were several court appearances and motions filed, as well as claims made by the wife that the husband had disobeyed disclosure requirements and interim orders. Finally, the trial date was set for late 2008. Just before the trial was to start, the wife filed a motion to strike the husband’s entire pleadings, excluding him from taking part in the trial, on the grounds that he had repeatedly and persistently violated many non-depletion and restraining orders issued by the court.

The court approved this motion, striking the husband’s financial documents and pleadings, and barring him from taking part in the trial other than as a spectator. The wife requests for a divorce and financial assistance were both approved by the judge. The man tried to appeal to the Court of Appeal but was unsuccessful. The court determined that the trial judge has utilized the discretion that all court have to limit the husband’s involvement in the trial correctly in this case, despite the fact that it was an option that should only be employed in extraordinary situations when no other remedy would suffice.

[1] Stockwell v. Dalcin, 2013 ONSC 2179 (CanLII)

[2] Kerton v. Kerton, [1999] O.J. No. 4478 (S.C.J.); Kerton v. Kerton, [1997] O.J. No. 3932 (S.C.J.), 1997 CanLII 16997 (ON SC)

[3] Purcaru v. Purcaru, 2010 ONCA 92