I’m Being Sued in Family Court & My Spouse is Lying. What Do I Do? Pt. 1

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Written by Jason Howie

Many people panic when they find themselves being sued in court, and that panic is only compounded once they read through the many allegations contained in the Application. However, it’s important to keep in mind that an Application or a Statement of Claim is simply one person’s side of the story. As I’ll explain below, in most cases there is no need to worry over every detail or to provide a point-by-point response addressing each individual claim. Instead, the Application should be treated as an invitation for the responding party to set out their own version of the facts as they see them before the two parties head to court.

This blog will be of particular interest to those who are involved in a court case or find themselves involved in one in the future. Perhaps bookmark it for reference in case the need arises.

The Instinct to Provide a Point-by-Point Denial to a Statement of Claim

The inspiration for his blog came from an email that I received from a client who is being sued by her husband for spousal support. She was very upset with some of the things that the husband put in his Application and she told me that she was going to summarize her response, with details referring to each and every allegation.

Is there something wrong with my client doing that? Of course not. It’s a completely understandable instinct. Is that a good and productive way for my client to spend her time? Aha, that’s a different question. Let me explain.

The Basics of Starting and Responding to a Family Law Claim

If you are the person initiating the case, you are referred to as the “Applicant”. If your spouse or partner has initiated the case, you are the “Respondent”. The required documents are all predesigned to address family law issues because of the unique claims that arise in family law cases. However, it’s important to note that this is nothing more than a specialized court case, just like an accident case, a breach of contract case, or a landlord-tenant matter.

When you think about it, if you were sued by somebody, the first thing you would want to know is, “Why?  What is somebody saying that I did, or I didn’t do?” If your bank brought a claim against you, you would immediately want to know why. Did you miss a loan payment?  Did the bank say that you misrepresented something on an Application form? In general, what the heck is all of this about?

In family law, the document that sets out the reasons for initiating a lawsuit is called an Application, and that’s exactly what it is – an Application to bring a suit before the court and nothing more (or should be nothing more… more on that below). An Application contains the type of relief or remedy the Applicant is seeking, and the facts that the Applicant is relying on to justify their entitlement to that relief.

Again, let’s go back to my “you are being sued by your bank” example. The Application that the bank would use to start the litigation process (technically, it’s called a Statement of Claim for those of you who are sticklers for details) would set out the relevant facts. These might include the date you signed the loan paperwork, the representations that you made during the approval process, the amount of the loan and a history of any defaults with respect to repayment.

That’s it.

If that’s what an Application consists of, here is a list of what an Application doesn’t contain:

  • It does not contain sworn evidence.
  • In fact, it does contain any evidence at all.
  • A list of things you’ll have to give to the Applicant once the case is over. While there will be a list of what the Applicant HOPES to receive, this doesn’t mean they will actually get it.
  • True statements of fact. It is not assumed, and quite the contrary, that anything in the Application is true. It is a list of allegations, perhaps, but not facts.

If you think about it for a second, it is impossible that the Application contains nothing but “truths.”  First of all, the old adage is that there are two sides to every story.  Obviously, the Applicant is just putting in his or her side.  The lawyer drafting the Application probably doesn’t even know what the other side is.  Secondly, and more importantly, if everything that was in the Application was true, then you wouldn’t be in a court case!  Everything would be agreed to:  Nothing to see here; we will just sign a simple agreement.

In summary, think of the Application as a [somewhat] detailed table of contents as to what the Applicant says the case is all about.

In an upcoming blog, we’ll conclude this article with the receiving spouse or partner’s perspective and our advice on how to handle being on the receiving end of a family law Application.

To speak with an experienced Windsor family lawyer about your divorce or what to expect in family court, call Howie Johnson Barristers and Solicitors at 519.973.1500, get started now or contact us online. Many of our clients are referred to us by former and current clients, and also by lawyers, counsellors and other professionals.

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