Judge Denounces “Litigation Nonsense” in Spousal Support Case, Calling Husband’s Behaviour “Economic Warfare”
In a recent Ontario decision, the court described a husband’s conduct in refusing to accede to previous spousal support orders “litigation nonsense” and “economic warfare”.
Wife Caught in Protracted Litigation Over Spousal Support
The husband and wife had a long history of litigation over spousal support, dating back to 2013, which culminated in a November 2017Ontario Court of Appeal decision, in which the husband was ordered to pay the wife close to $14,000 per month on an indefinite basis.
Before the release of the 2017 Court of Appeal decision, however, the husband brought yet another motion, in response to which the wife filed a cross-motion, all of which led to a 2019 decision dismissing the husband’s claims.
As a result, in April 2019, the husband was ordered to pay over $65,000 in costs in relation to his failed motion to obtain an interim variation of the support order, which he then failed to pay. Additionally, the husband was ordered to pay the wife $25,000 in costs for a motion he had commenced and then withdrew. In fixing these costs, the court found that the husband had engaged in a pattern of unreasonable and bad faith conduct.
Despite having withdrawn his request to vary the Court of Appeal’s support order, the husband continued to refuse to pay.
In total, the husband owed the wife almost $500,000 in spousal support arrears and unpaid costs.
As a result, the Family Responsibility Office commenced a default proceeding against the husband, which was heard on December 11, 2020. Ultimately the court ordered the husband to pay the following amounts, failing which he would be incarcerated for three days for each and every default:
- $13,859 a month for the ongoing support;
- $6,374 a month towards the arrears;
- $147,597 as a lump sum by March 1, 2021; and
- $103,088 as a lump sum by May 1, 2021.
The husband then brought an application to change the venue from Milton, Ont., to Hamilton, while, in response, the wife wanted outstanding matters transferred and consolidated in Milton.
Court Admonishes Husband’s Conduct
Justice Pazaratz heard the parties’ motion and cross-motion and issued a decision on January 25, 2021.
In his decision, Justice Pazaratz described the husband’s conduct as an attempt to “force [the wife] to continuously spend money to enforce her rights under the guise of an unproven inability to pay”.
Ultimately, Justice Pazaratz dismissed the husband’s claims, concluding:
“The [husband] has provided no explanation in this motion as to why he started a motion to change spousal support… causing the [wife] to incur enormous expense…
The [husband] has provided nothing to rebut the very credible allegation that he continues to engage in economic warfare, by making this litigation as complex, unproductive, inefficient and expensive as possible.
The COVID pandemic has left our court resources strained as never before. Even working at maximum efficiency, our reduced capacity in family court means that every day more and more families are left waiting for access to justice. In many of those delayed cases, the well-being and circumstances of children and vulnerable people are at stake.
I’m not sure why we tolerated as much litigation nonsense as we used to. But that’s not an option anymore.
We can no longer permit or tolerate an inefficient or cavalier approach toward judicial resources. We can no longer overlook or gloss over oppressive, reckless or malicious behaviour.”
In the result, Justice Pazaratz dismissed the husband’s motion, allowed the wife’s request to transfer certain matters to Milton, and ordered the husband to pay an additional $4,000 in legal costs.
At Feigenbaum Law, our goal is to help you move forward following the breakdown of a relationship while retaining as much financial stability as possible and ensuring your children are provided for. Mark Feigenbaum is able to counsel his clients on all potential risks that may result from a family law dispute, not just those related strictly to the breakdown of a marriage. Contact Mark online or call him at (905) 695-1269 or toll-free at (877) 275-4792 to book a consultation.