Case in point: Madam Justice Watchuk in British Columbia’s Supreme Court walloped a litigant for his reprehensible behavior, ordering him to pay $35,000 to his wife. His over-the-top antics included rude, nasty, demeaning, and inflammatory language directed against his former wife, his wife’s lawyer and the court process itself, during a nineteen-day custody trial.
The usual rule in litigation is that the losing party must pay “costs” to the winning party. Costs are not, however, a reimbursement of the successful party’s legal fees, rather they are a contribution to them, usually amounting to about one-third.
In this case the judge ordered the father to pay “special costs”. These costs are intended to punish a litigant for outrageous or reprehensible behavior before the trial or during the court process.
What seemed to escape this belligerent litigant is that no judge will award shared parenting to an individual who is so out-of-control that he cannot rein in his rage in the face of the court.
Yes, there are litigants whose attitude and behavior is despicable, but they are smart enough to clean up their act by the time they get to court, as if butter couldn’t melt in their mouth. Often times these narcissistic creeps fool the court into believing they are the ones who have been abused.
What is common in these cases is that by the time the trial begins, they have alienated any lawyer who had the misfortune to try to assist them. As well, some percentage of these types of litigant don’t want a lawyer because they believe that acting in person allows them greater freedom to harangue, harass, and obfuscate the issues.
Unfortunately, many of these reprobates simply ignore court orders and it would not surprise me if this woman never sees the money she has been awarded, particularly because the fellow in this case spent a lot of his time in the United Kingdom.
But, you may say, once the trial is done, it’s over? Not so fast…these litigants often appeal the trial court’s decision and for good measure, often report their spouse’s lawyer to the Law Society alleging unfounded unethical conduct.
Wise words to family law lawyers: Run as fast as you can when you see this kind of client. It is never worth it…
Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang