Court Chastises Father: “The Gamesmanship Must Come to an Immediate End”
Some important legal principles derived from the landmark Supreme Court of Canada decision in Bhasin v. Hrynew. That ruling confirmed that when interpreting contracts – including those arising in the Family Law context – there is an “organizing principle of good faith”, as well as a “duty of honest performance.”
The scope of that principle and the imposed duty is illustrated in the decision in Weiss v. Treissman, where the Ontario court examined the terms of a settlement agreement that had been enshrined in a Final Order. The father – who was a high-earning doctor – had exploited some flexibility in the wording to deliberately withhold the ordered payment of lump sum spousal support to the mother. His objective in doing so was to undermine her already-precarious financial stability, and try to gain a strategic advantage in their litigation. As the court explained:
[The father] Dr. Treissman has been playing “hardball”. The Final Order permitted him to pay the lump sum at any earlier time he wished. It has been a deliberate negotiating strategy on his part to withhold payment, knowing full well that Ms. Wiebe has been in difficult financial circumstances for the past 18 months.
Some text messages sent by Dr. Treissman and referring to Ms. Wiebe have been put into evidence. They are not flattering. On January 2, 2017 Dr. Treissman texted his intention to “ratchet up the $ pain a bit” by delaying payments. He even expressed a desire that Ms. Wiebe, the mother of his four children, be “liquidated”.
These are not sentiments worthy of a respected physician. Hippocrates would not be impressed. Neither is the Court.
After referencing the Bhasin v. Hrynew decision specifically, and conceding that the precise scope of the duty of honest performance has yet to be determined, the court expressed doubt that the father’s withholding of the lump-sum payment would qualify to meet the threshold. On this issue, the court concluded with the following admonishment:
The gamesmanship must come to an immediate end. I order Dr. Treissman to immediately and unconditionally transfer the sum of $700,000 to Ms. Wiebe on account of the lump sum payment of spousal support required under the Final Order.
With that – and at least for this hardball-playing doctor – it was Game Over.
For the full text of the decision, see:
Wiebe v Treissman, 2017 BCSC 1523
Lopatowski v. Lopatowski, 2018 ONSC 824
Sattva Capital Corp. v. Creston Moly Corp., 2014 SCC 53
Bhasin v. Hrynew, 2014 SCC 71