High Conflict Divorce Leads To More Litigation Than Necessary

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One of the most significant concerns people tend to have about family law disputes is the cost, the time, and the emotional toll of engaging in litigation. That’s one of the reasons why Howie Johnson Barristers & Solicitors offers mediation services. While not every case is perfect for mediation, it’s worth talking to your lawyer about. Even if litigation is necessary, it’s important to remember to try to keep things civil in order to avoid both the time and costs associated with unnecessary court time. A recent decision from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice shows how seemingly simple matters to resolve can be drawn out more than necessary.

Dispute arises over the sale of the matrimonial home

The matrimonial home is one of the most significant assets most couples will ever own. Following a divorce or separation, it’s not uncommon for the matrimonial home to be sold in order to allow for a fair division of assets. In the situation being discussed today, the conflict between the parties, or at least one of the conflicts.

The mother and father involved started living together in 2012 and were married in 2015. They entered into a marriage contract prior to getting married, and it released them from spousal support and from an equalization of net family property.

After the separation, the parties attempted to make a go at a nesting arrangement, in which the parents would spend time individually at home with the children and live somewhere else when it was not their time to spend at the home. However, that arrangement came to an end and the parties agreed that the home should be sold and the proceeds split. Their disagreement came over when it should be listed for sale and what should happen to the equity they have in it.

How to split the proceeds of the home

The home had equity worth close to $600,000. The mother sought to have the home sold with 50% of the equity held in trust, and the remaining 50% split between the parties. She wanted 50% to be held in trust so that it could be used should the father fail to pay child support, claiming the father is financially irresponsible. The court agreed, noting that he had incurred debt of over $190,000 since the separation six months before the hearing. Much of it was related to legal fees, but the court still described it as “staggering.”

In the end, the court ordered that $50,000 be held in trust from each party’s share of the proceeds from the sale of the home.

Court makes note regarding behaviour of parties

One of the most striking paragraphs in the decision was the early description of the relationship between the parties. The court said,

“The issues of this motion are not complicated and should have been resolved at the case conference.  However, it is clear from reading the file that this is a high conflict case. I have concerns about both party’s behavior and judgement at various times in this litigation.  The legal fees incurred to date, the frequent involvement of police and JF&CS, delays, certain actions by the parties, positions taken by the parties on various issues and exposure of the children to the conflict weighs heavily on my mind. My order is going to be very detailed to minimize and room for dispute or delay.  One final comment on the level of conflict before turning to the motion before me: From the brief summary provided in the parties’ materials and in submissions, it seems to me that if the parties do not show a significant shift in their approach to this litigation, they will both end up spending their life savings and all of their assets on legal fees and they both risk a finding of emotional and psychological harm to the children being made against them.”

These types of comments serve as good examples of the importance of not letting emotions and frustration take hold of an already difficult process. It’s important to work with a lawyer who can help you avoid unnecessary costs when going through separation or divorce. For questions that only a family law lawyer can answer, contact Howie Johnson Barristers & Solicitors at 519.973.1500 or contact us online.

 

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