The husband, Rastegar, participated in a settlement conference before a conference judge which resulted in what was purportedly a Consent Order. He was self-represented; the wife was represented by counsel.
However, the husband later challenged the validity of the Order on various grounds, by way of an appeal brought before the court. This appeal was allowed; the court agreed that the so-called “Consent Order” ostensibly reached between the parties should be overturned.
First of all, while recognizing that the settlement conference was designed to be a more relaxed and informal process, the court noted that the conference judge in this case had crossed the line of what was appropriate judicial comment. For one thing, the conference judge made reference to his own individual experiences in order to take “judicial notice” of certain facts pertaining to the husband’s Iranian background, and made a comment that he has “some knowledge of Sharia law and we all know how badly woman are treated under Sharia law.” The conference judge went on to say:
“We don’t have people being stoned to death in this country because they happen to look at a man or they’re not wearing a veil or whatever”.
Also, before obtaining the husband’s purported consent to the Order, the conference judge also said to him:
“You don’t get to call the shots anymore. All you get to do, sir, is write a cheque, straight up. I know that’s not how they work in different countries, and particularly I have some knowledge of Iran.”
In short, the court noted that the husband was “essentially bullied” into agreeing to the Consent Order, and recited the events leading up to that as follows:
Towards the end of the conference, the conference judge asked Mr. Rastegar: “You will agree to sign the order, is that correct sir?” The judge was referring to a draft order which had been prepared by the wife’s counsel over the lunch hour. Mr. Rastegar answered the judge’s question “Yes Your Honour, but there are a couple of them that I was just hearing that we didn’t discuss at all”. Mr. Rastegar did not actually sign anything.
Even if this equivocal exchange could be construed as consent to the terms being appealed, it was not an informed consent and it was not freely given. The conference judge misinformed Mr. Rastegar regarding his legal obligations and effectively bullied him into acquiescence.
As such, the conferenced judge had misused his powers to force the husband’s consent to an Order which was drafted by the wife’s lawyer without getting the necessary information from the husband and which (among other things) required the husband to pay spousal support to the wife.
For the full text of the decision, see:
Siahbazi v. Rastegar, 2012 ONSC 2384 http://canlii.ca/t/fr2dj
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