In a brief ruling on costs in an acrimonious family dispute, the court tried to restore focus to the separated parents, who had each incurred $15,000 in legal costs for a set of motions and cross-motions that should never have been brought in the first place.
The parents’ motions related to various issues around spousal support, child support, and payments for extraordinary expenses about which they could not agree. Even considering that the father came out slightly ahead on the motions overall, the court said his “victory is pyrrhic”.
More importantly, the court said that both parents’ behavior “is in dire need of correction,” given their lack of timely disclosure of income information, lack of true attempts at compromise, last-minute demands of each other, and mutual fixation on items that did not advance the resolution of their issues. (In illustration, the court pointed out that the parents’ discussion about buying a new $99 hockey stick continued over two months).
In explaining the decision to let the parents each bear their own legal costs on the motions, the court began by observing that the dollar-values being fought over were small:
Relative to the value of the file, it is clear that the parties have lost all sight of proportionality. This motion ought never to have been brought. The value of the issues the parties are fighting over is relatively small. The spread between positions of the parties is $20,658. The net judgment is $4,291.07, in Father’s favour.
The court also noted the avalanche of paperwork that needed to be filed in support of these motions:
In comparison to the value of the matter at issue, the record on this Motion to Change is 5 inches thick, setting aside the material filed for the Refraining Order. For this motion alone the parties filed 5 Affidavits appending 50 multi-paged exhibits. In addition, Father filed a case book and memo of argument.
Nor did the potential toll on public resources go unnoticed:
I have no doubt that each parties’ solicitor and client bill will not be less than $15,000.00. I have not attempted to calculate the cost to the public purse, or the effect that this motion had on the availability of court time for other litigants.
The court concluded:
I hope that the sting of each litigant paying his or her full legal bill without recovery from the other will encourage both parties to attempt to resolve their minor issues without the expenditure of large amounts of their and the public’s resources.
For the full text of the decision, see: