Fake Outbursts, and Adultery “Fines”, and “Bloody Minded” Calls for Jail Time – All in a Day’s Work for the Family Court
In an otherwise fairly-routine family matter in terms of legal issues, the court was exposed to a full panoply of theatrics and strategic scheming in a recent B.C. case. It’s an interesting little read.
The parents were married for 23 years and were later divorced in Taiwan, and were battling over the custody of their two youngest children. The wife claims spousal and child support, and a share of property interests that the husband in that country, and in B.C. and Saskatchewan as well.
But then the case took a bit of a turn: The husband resisted the wife’s claims, asserting (among other things) that only the Taiwanese courts had jurisdiction to decide some of the issues, and that they had already received a civil divorce in Taiwan, based on the wife’s adultery (which is apparently an offence in that country).
In response to this, the court wrote:
In that regard, neither party produced certified copies of the Taiwanese divorce pleadings or orders, each stating that to be the other’s responsibility. The only evidence of any financial implications of the Taiwanese proceedings is found in the “Criminal Judgment”, dated March 9, 1994, in which [the wife] seems to have been presented with the uneasy choice of serving three months in jail or paying a penalty of $30 per day.
That aside, I have difficulty accepting that an order requiring payment of a “fine” of $5,000 proves that the Taiwanese courts have “taken jurisdiction over the redistribution of assets pursuant to the divorce” (counsel’s words). Aside from the fact that the “fine” was imposed in separate “criminal” proceedings which were based on allegations of adultery, the roughly translated documents from the civil action do not indicate that the Taiwanese courts have dealt with property issues at all.
After thus dispensing with the husband’s jurisdictional objection, the court framed the tenor of the rest of the trial proceedings this way:
Although it is inherently difficult to assess the credibility of witnesses who are being examined and cross-examined through [Mandarin] interpreters, the [husband and wife] created strong impressions. Their pettiness and mutual disrespect seemed limitless, and much of their testimony must be treated as suspect.
In many obviously fake outbursts, marked by wailing and tearless crying, [the wife] demonstrated her considerable guile (of the five or six ways to translate that term, her interpreter might most charitably choose from “artfulness”, “shrewdness”, or “wiliness”). Her disloyalty to [the husband] also led to misuse of his eyeglasses inventory (it went to her brother), for which she later signed a “Statement of Repentence”, at [the husband’s] insistence.
For his part, [the husband’s] attitude was one of utter disdain towards his former wife ([the husband’s] interpreter might well choose “arrogance”, “contempt”, or “indifference”). He clearly believes that [the wife] deserves nothing from their marital estate.
Both parties also engaged in various legal shenanigans: the husband surreptitiously mortgaged their shared homes and transferred about $430,000 to a bank in Taiwan, claiming he owed someone else some money. He was found in contempt for not producing documents, and ordered into 10 days of custody (though that was stayed). He listed both family properties for sale, despite being clearly ordered by the court not to.
Not to be outdone, the wife asked for the husband to be incarcerated even after the trial had concluded – which prompted the husband to flee the country. The court explained:
The prospect of spending ten days in jail prompted [the husband’s] quick flight from Canada (he returned just before the trial began). Although what he said about failure to provide documents was fatuous, the notion of sharing available information may be entirely foreign to [the husband]. However, in spite of his steadfast resistance to the proceedings, now that the trial has ended I consider the renewed call [by the wife] for his incarceration to be somewhat bloody minded. The committal order … is vacated.
The court went on to assume jurisdiction, and to resolve numerous family property, custody and access issues. On the question of dividing the family assets, the court wrote:
Two things were obvious in [the husband’s] testimony.
First, he is so bound up in the fault which provided the grounds for the Taiwanese divorce (and, as well, in [the wife’s] loyalty to her younger brother and his rival spectacles business) that he seems unwilling to acknowledge [the wife’s] contributions to the acquisition of their Taiwanese estate.
Second, the notion that the economic consequences of the [couple’s] divorce have affected [the wife] more than himself seems to be difficult for [the husband] to grasp. Moreover, given [the husband’s] own willingness to look after the children when he brought them to Canada, it also seems hard for him to accept that, after bearing the child-care burden (which, of course, continues) for many years, [the wife] is somehow now economically disadvantaged.
In my view, [the wife] is entitled to an interest in assets which [the husband] acquired here. That interest must, of course, reflect the principles I have just alluded to.
The court added that the husband had spent over $30,000 in legal fees even before the trial began (and observed that yet “he carps about the cost of this litigation”). The wife had apparently spent twice that amount.
These twists-and-turns might make this case a little out of the ordinary – but they are not entirely unheard-of. In any event, the court certainly had its work cut out for it with this couple.
For the full text of the decision, see: