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Stay-At-Home Mom Ordered to Pay $30K Towards Fee for Wealthy Husband’s Expert

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Stay-At-Home Mom Ordered to Pay $30K Towards Fee for Wealthy Husband’s Expert

The father was a wealthy self-made businessman earning a half-million dollars per year, while mother was an unemployed stay-at-home mom to their daughter, whom the court referred to as their “love child”. After separation, the father had generously set up the mother and child in a rent-free/mortgage-free home to live in.

After a 9-day family law trial that took six years to reach court, joint custody was granted, with the father being ordered to pay $3,750 per month in child support. This amount was vastly lower than what the mother had claimed.

A separate court hearing was held to determine what portion of legal costs were payable by each of them. In the mother’s case, she had spent $213,000 in legal fees and costs, while the father had spent about $172,000.

As part of this exercise, the court honed in on the expert fees that had been paid by each of them. It started by saying that “the parties incurred almost obscene expenses for expert testimony”. Specifically, the mother had paid her expert almost $100,000; yet the court chimed in that “Her expert was of no help to me (or to her)”. Similarly, the fee for the father’s expert was about $60,000 (although the court conceded that the resulting report was indeed helpful).

The trial itself had resolved a number of issues (including support, custody and access), but there was no clear winner: numerous offers had been exchanged over the six years but only on the eve of trial did the father make an offer that would have put the mother “miles ahead”, had she accepted it. Conversely, the mother persisted in taking the matter to trial in “dogged pursuit” of an amount of child support that was unreasonable in the circumstances.

The court noted that the apportionment of legal costs usually proceeds on a costs-follow-the-event basis; they must also be fair and reasonable in the circumstances, and must be in line with the expectations of the losing side. It also acknowledged that in the mother’s financial circumstances she would have difficulty paying even her own lawyer’s bill, let alone any portion of the father’s costs.

Still, it was appropriate in this case to order the mother to pay $30,000 towards the fee the father paid to his expert. The parties were otherwise each responsible for their own costs.

For the full text of the decision, see:

Goetz v. McConnell (2014), 2014 ONSC 2910

Additional reasons to (2013), 2013 ONSC 7949

 

At Russell Alexander, Family Lawyers our focus is exclusively family law, offering pre-separation legal advice and assisting clients with family related issues including: custody and access, separation agreements, child and spousal support, division of family property, paternity disputes, and enforcement of court orders. For more information, visit our main site.