Family Court Judge Decries Egregious Abuse of Family Court System

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When a person attends court in relation to family matters, the thoughts of personal details being aired out can be an exhausting and overwhelming experience. In any event, however, providing your lawyer and the court with truthful testimony and an honest recollection of any events in question is imperative. Furthermore, complying with your obligations throughout litigation and under court order is crucial. As a matter progresses through the judicial system, the court may issue orders at various times, including interim or final orders concerning payment of child support, spousal support, or property division. 

However, when a party fails to fulfill these responsibilities, the compliant party may seek judicial intervention to enforce outstanding obligations. This was the case in a recent Ontario Superior Court of Justice decision.

The Parties Seek a Divorce; One Party Offends the Court

The case of Matos v Driesman involved the dissolution of the marriage between the applicant (“MM”) and the respondent (“DD”). Although a final order with respect to child support had been issued by the court in 2010, DD had continuously refused to meet his child support obligations for the ensuing 13 years. 

During this time he also engaged in further behaviours that were offensive to the court, such as “repeatedly and steadfastly” refusing to meet his financial disclosure obligations and bringing so many frivolous and vexatious motions and other court proceedings that the court had been forced to issue an order prohibiting DD from bringing any further matters forward without first obtaining leave of the court.

Court Imputes Income in the Absence of Financial Disclosure

The matter at issue before the court in this instance was a motion by MM to vary the child support order issued in 2010 in order to reflect the children’s university educations. MM sought to impute income to DD of $240,000 per year in having the court amend its order with respect to child support. The court found this request to be “very modest,” given that DD had persistently failed to provide the court with the requested financial disclosure. DD was also known to have significant business and real estate interests (the court had previously found that DD had over $1 million in a bank account at a time he claimed he could not afford to pay child support). 

The court noted that when a party to a family law matter refuses to provide income disclosure, “it can be safely assumed that he or she knows that income can be imputed under the Child Support Guidelines” and that “the refusal to disclose evinces an assessment by the litigant that he or she is likely better off with an imputed income than if the real income was known.” In light of these factors, the court imputed to DD an income of $240,000 for the calendar year 2015, with a 3% cost-of-living increase to be applied for each year thereafter. 

Respondent Ordered to Pay Substantial Child Support Arrears, Section 7 Expenses and Costs

The court adjusted the amounts of child support due for the years each respective child had been attending university and approved all of MM’s section 7 expense requests in respect of the children, as all expenses were found to be “necessary and reasonable in light of their historical standard of living and their academic capabilities.” With the adjustments and imputation of income as described above, DD was ordered to pay MM over $500,000 in unpaid child support and section 7 expenses.

DD’s refusal, for more than a decade, to meet his child support obligations or to provide the court with financial disclosure, along with his persistent engagement in abusive and vexatious behaviour, led the court to describe his collective actions as “one of the worst examples of abuse of the family law system that I have seen”. 

In making this determination, the court also commented that a previous order had been issued that prevented DD from participating in litigation without first receiving the court’s permission. The court stated that the very fact that DD found himself in this position meant “that prior experienced family law judges required each succeeding judge to consider whether a proposed step may be a continuation of a serious pattern of abuse that led to the imposition of the leave requirement and the striking of the respondent’s pleadings in the first place”. DD was subsequently ordered to pay $9,000 for MM’s legal costs incurred in this motion. 

Contact the Skilled Family Lawyers at Johnson Miller Family Lawyers in Windsor-Essex for Comprehensive Advice on Family Law Disputes

The trusted family lawyers at Johnson Miller Family Lawyers draw upon their extensive experience to guide their clients through the complex process of family law litigation. Whether you are involved in a dispute over support issues, parenting matters, or property division, our tenacious and compassionate team will provide you with thorough advice to ensure that your rights are protected every step of the way. Whether you seek to enforce an existing order or learn more about your entitlement to support, our lawyers will provide comprehensive advice and legal solutions tailored to your circumstances. Johnson Miller Family Lawyers represents clients throughout Windsor-Essex county and the surrounding areas. To speak with a member of our family law team, reach out to us online or call us at 519.973.1500.

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