How Not to Act in Family Litigation

Court cases involving other individuals may be quite informative since they offer a useful and cost-fee lesson on the types of conduct and behaviour the courts find inappropriate. Here are three suggestions on what not to do and how not to act during your own family litigation, using some recent Ontario family law cases as a model.

The first is to avoid taking an unreasonable stance or initiating pointless procedures. The court determined that the husband had submitted a court motion that turned out to be utterly needless and a waste of time and money for all parties in a case named J.A.B. v. R.J.S.[1] The husband had continued in making unjustified and false accusations against the wife and her new partner. The court took an unusual step and awarded significant indemnity costs against the husband, noting that “family law litigants are liable and accountable for the positions they take in the litigation.”

The second is to not devise a complex plan to evade equalization and spousal support. In Radlo v. Radlo,[2] the court found that the husband had created a complex, utterly improbable narrative to try to justify specific business practices and intricate transactions. The husband was subjected to significant costs after the court determined that they were all involved in a plot to remove money from the wife’s control.

The third is to refrain from unilaterally reducing your support obligations. I the case of McSkimming v. Schmuck,[3] the husband chose to lower the spousal support payments that an arbitrator had mandated he provide. The court ordered the husband accountable for the wife’s entire legal expenses, which came to over $17,000 after the wife was successful in making a motion, receiving at least one settlement offer and defending an appeal. The husband had taken matters into his own hands and purposely harmed the wife financially and emotionally.

[1] J.A.B. v. R.J.S., 2013 ONSC 7258, [2013] O.J. No. 5332, Price J. (Ont. S.C.J.)

[2] Radlo v. Radlo, (2013), 2013 ONSC 7329

[3] McSkimming v. Schmuck (2014), 2014 CarsewellOnt 8435 (S.C.J.)