The ex-wife in a contentious and lengthy divorce was declared a vexatious litigant after more than 47 court appearances and several complaints filed against judges.
The parties separated after 29 years. In October 2012, the ex-wife brought an application seeking support and division of assets. Following an extensive trial, a judgment was issued making a final decision on all issues except for costs. The decision was in the ex-wife’s favour.
In August 2016, the ex-husband filed a motion to change seeking an order terminating the spousal support and also filed for divorce.
In August 2017, the ex-wife filed for a restraining order. Justice Pazaratz eventually granted a mutual restraining order that prohibited either party from contacting or speaking the other’s name, except as required by ongoing legal proceedings.
In his endorsement, Justice Pazaratz noted that, despite their ages (the ex-husband was 77 years old at the time and the ex-wife was 69 at the time), neither had been behaving with “the maturity or dignity that one would expect given the stage of their lives”, further noting that:
…that these parties have unresolved animosity toward one another and bitterness about previous court determinations, and these destructive and unchecked emotions are fueling this endless litigation.
As a court system we have to ensure access to justice for everyone, but that also entails an obligation to ensure that court resources are allocated appropriately, I have tried to explain to both of these parties that taxpayers do not have a bottomless pit of money to pay for their incessant legal feuding, and that after 9 volumes and 47 court attendances these parties have pretty much exhausted our tolerance from any further wasteful court proceedings.
Within seven days of Justice Pazaratz’s order, the ex-wife pursued a motion to set it aside, and to have the restraining order enforced against the ex-husband only. She also asked the court to apply “different laws” to any other court documents filed by the ex-husband.
The ex-wife also filed an affidavit outlining several complaints she had about prior rulings made, in particular wrongs she perceived had been done against her by previous judges, and claimed that she was “not going to get justice”.
The ex-husband asked the court to declare the wife a vexatious litigant.
The Law on Vexatious Litigants
The law on vexatious litigants is well-established. The principles of a vexatious litigant are:
(a) the bringing of one or more actions to determine an issue which has already been determined by a Court of competent jurisdiction constitutes a vexatious proceeding;
(b) where it is obvious that an action cannot succeed, or if the action would lead to no possible good or if no reasonable person can reasonably expect to obtain relief, the action is vexatious;
(c) vexatious actions include those brought for an improper purpose, including the harassment and oppression of other parties by multifarious proceedings brought for purposes other than the assertion of legitimate rights;
(d) it is a general characteristic of vexatious proceedings that grounds and issues raised tend to be rolled forward into subsequent actions and repeated and supplemented, often with actions brought against the lawyers who have acted for or against the litigant in earlier proceedings;
(e) in determining whether proceedings are vexatious, the Court must look at the whole history of the matter and not just whether there was originally a good cause of action;
(f) the failure of the person instituting the proceedings to pay the costs of unsuccessful proceedings is one factor to be considered in determining whether proceedings are vexatious; and
(g) the respondent’s conduct and persistently taking unsuccessful appeals from judicial decisions can be considered vexatious conduct of legal proceedings.
The court noted that, without question, the ex-wife fulfilled characteristics (a) to (e) as listed above.
The history of proceedings between the parties clearly showed that the ex-wife had brought numerous proceedings to ether set aside or change previously issued final orders. Moreover, the ex-wife persisted in repeatedly bringing motions despite being told (and understanding) that the relief she was seeking could not be granted and could be seen as an abuse of process.
The court further noted that “it is difficult to see the purpose of these repeated court motions and applications as anything other than the harassment of [the ex-husband]”.
The court concluded that:
Based on the history summarized above, I conclude that the power to declare [the ex-wife] a vexatious litigant ought to be exercised here. No possible good can be had from the litigation that [the ex-wife] repeatedly brings and which are inevitably dismissed: her actions are vexatious.
The court emphasized that the ex-wife’s conduct is: “indicative of persistent and unwarranted pursuit of legal proceedings that are both meritless and frivolous” and that she ought no longer to be permitted unrestrained access to the courts of Ontario.
With more than 25 years of experience guiding husbands and wives through the stress and strain of separation and divorce, Jason P. Howie understands your frustrations and fears, including frustrations that come with dealing with an unreasonable or vindictive ex-spouse. Jason has seen it all and knows that each case must be treated differently, and that no single solution will work in every situation or negotiation. Jason will customize an approach to meet your specific needs. To arrange a meeting with one of our experienced lawyers, call 519.973.1500 or contact us online.