Master Criticizes Former Couple’s “Extreme” Strategies in Family Court
In a decision reminiscent of those written by Justice Pazaratz here in Ontario, Master Muir of the B.C. Supreme Court recently decried what should have been a straightforward matter that ended up being exceptionally prolonged.
The parties in question began living together in 2009 and were married in 2011. They had two children before separating in September 2016. Following the separation, they continued to live under the same roof for six weeks.
In October 2016, the mother left the home with the children without informing the father, following which the father did not see the children for several weeks. As a result, the father requested imputation of income and filed motions for interim child and spousal support and an order that the matrimonial home be listed for sale.
By the time the matter got to court, the mother was living in the matrimonial home and the parties had approximately equal parenting time.
Imputation of Income
The father asserted that various admissions, expenses, and evidence of cash receipts together pointed to a higher income than the mother declared to the CRA. He brought a huge amount of affidavit material to court to convince the Master that the mother earned or was earning substantial money through illegal means.
Conversely, the mother also brought a huge amount of evidence intended to bolster her credibility and convince the Master that she was not involved in any illegal activities.
Master Muir noted:
This application, which would normally be a relatively straight forward matter, required more than a day-and-a-half of court time over three separate hearings. That there is an unhealthy and abusive climate to this litigation is highlighted by the fact that the parties presented more than two boxes of materials containing perhaps 160 affidavits and that there have been 26 affidavits filed by the respondent and 15 by the claimant.
… This approach to family issues is counter to the fundamental basis of our present family system which encourages negotiation, not litigation. This is not supposed to be a war. It is supposed to be a civilized allocation of rights, responsibilities, and assets following a family break-up. This type of litigation is unnecessary, it is damaging to the parties and to the children, and it wastes family assets on litigation costs. I ask that counsel convey those sentiments to their clients in the hope that this can be reined in and the parties can refocus on resolving this in some other way.
The Master went on to note that most of the significant assets that the couple had divested themselves of following their separation (almost $700,000) had been used to fund the litigation.
In addition, with respect to the income earning potential of both parties, the Master stated:
The continued depletion of the parties’ capital is not in anyone’s best interests. The fact is that both parties are capable of working and experienced in fields that should allow decent opportunities for income-earning activities. The children will both be in school this year. The [father] appears to have a closely-knit family and community. I see no reason why he cannot arrange afterschool care for the children on his parenting time. There is no reason that both parties cannot be working full-time. It is obviously in the children’s best interests for their lives to be normalized and for them to be properly supported by parents who are working to that end and not depleting family assets for day-to-day support.
Income in the amount of $95,000 was imputed to the husband and $25,000 to the wife. Child support was ordered with a set-off to account for the equal parenting time shared by the parents, and the wife was awarded spousal support in the mid-range of the Guidelines. The application for the sale of the matrimonial home was dismissed.
For questions that only a family law lawyer can answer, contact Windsor family lawyer Jason P. Howie, at 519-800-1039 or contact us online. Jason has been a fixture of the family law community of Windsor and Essex County for over 25 years, and, many prospective clients come to the firm through referrals.