Obstinate Father Pays the Ultimate (Litigation) Price
Even the most acrimonious of court disputes between former spouses hinges on a premise: That, having agreed to give the court power to settle their dispute once and for all, the spouses will each obey any orders the court eventually makes. Otherwise, there is no real point in both parties showing up to participate.
In a very recent decision by the Ontario Court of Appeal in Del Vecchio v. Del Vecchio, the husband stubbornly refused to play by that simple rule – and the court had no choice but to eject him from the process. The court set the stage:
This contentious family law litigation has been ongoing for much longer than it should primarily because of the [husband’s] refusal to obey orders of the court.
The court itemized some of those defalcations on the husband’s part:
- He did not pay child and spousal support arrears as he had been ordered to do, nor did he ask for extra time to pay.
- He was ordered to pay costs to the wife on numerous occasions, arising out of unsuccessful motions on his part. He never paid them.
- He repeatedly failed to file materials in satisfaction of his financial disclosure obligations, by ignoring court orders to file financial statements, his tax returns, and to obtain an expert valuation of his businesses and investments.
- Other materials that he did file, under compulsion, were late and incomplete.
- He delivered a court-requested expert report long after the deadline, but it still had a good deal of information “unfinalized” and pending.
- He did not follow proper procedure for appealing, missed the deadline to do so, and did not ask the court for a filing extension.
In short, throughout the proceedings the husband wholly failed to comply with court orders and – even giving him the benefit of the doubt – never asked for extensions so he could do so. Nor did he bring any appeals of those orders, as he could have done if he took issue with their substance.
The court noted that the husband’s pleadings were struck once previously in the same litigation, two years earlier, but he was given another chance. A year later he was on the brink of having his pleadings struck again, and was warned by the court that there would be no additional chances given unless he fulfilled certain obligations, including paying outstanding costs. Yet again, the husband still failed to comply.
It was at this point that the wife successfully “pulled the trigger” on asking the court to strike his pleadings. Only in response to that motion did the husband finally take some concrete steps: He filed a few documents and said he paid the arrears but claimed there was some “mix up” at the Court administrative so that his payments were not credited. The court did not buy it:
The [husband] was given numerous chances to comply with and meet his obligations – he simply refused. Not until the very last minute did he take any steps to attempt to show he was not in arrears in respect of the support orders. He still had not complied with the obligations requiring financial production and unilaterally reduced his support payments. He remains in serious violation of a number of court orders.
The court added:
The only reasonable conclusion on all the evidence before this court is that the [husband] simply does not accept that he is in arrears of support. … He is mistaken. He remains in non-compliance to this date. He has had many, many chances to rectify his situation but refused to do so. If court orders are to have any meaning they must be respected.
The court upheld the prior ruling to strike the husband’s pleadings and confirmed that the wife would be allowed the wife to go forward without his participation in the proceedings, in an uncontested trial.
Bottom line: In Family Court, have to play by the rules.
For the full text of the decision, see: