Family law litigation is not for the faint of heart. But are delays in financial disclosure, character assassination, including allegations of parental alienation, financial mismanagement, manipulation of mental health professionals, perjury, and a general failure to act in good faith, sufficient to persuade a judge to award special costs against an allegedly unruly litigant or vary a final order regarding the division of family property?
In K.M.H. v. P.S.W. 2018 BCSC 2022 the Court said “no”, in circumstances where the applicant gave as good as she got. While the court acknowledged that the litigation had been both lengthy and difficult, the court said it would not be fair to place the blame exclusively on her spouse and that both were responsible for the unpleasant circumstances. The Court also commented that each of the parties complained of stress related to the litigation yet neither party seemed capable of extricating themselves from the fray.
The wife’s complaint that the husband had failed to provide full disclosure was also rejected by the Court who reviewed the case of M.W.B. v. A.R.B. 2013 BCSC 885 where following a trial the parties engaged in four additional hearings all driven by the wife’s refusal to settle the order and resolve costs in a reasonable fashion and her interference with her spouse’s parenting time and the ordered sale of a commercial property. The events post-trial contributed to a significant medical issue for the spouse.
The Court held:
“I find the Respondent’s litigation conduct, related both to the selling of the commercial property and to parenting arrangements, considered in their totality, is a form of emotional abuse and harassment that constitute a form of family violence.
The Respondent’s conduct and needless litigation has forced the Claimant to incur litigation expenses, damaging his financial well-being and health. This hindered his capacity to preserve parenting time with the children. Litigation has used up much of his emotional and financial resources.”
Similarly, in CLM v. MJS 2017 BCSC 799 the Court found that litigation conduct constituted family violence where the wife did not cooperate with the sale of the family home, did not abide by court orders, failed to provide full financial disclosure, and was generally obstructionist throughout the litigation. Her conduct forced the Respondent to incur unnecessary litigation expenses and consumed his emotional resources to the disadvantage of his children.
The question remains “why do otherwise good people treat their spouses in such an abominable way?” Psychologists tell us that the more hostile the divorce the harder it is for individuals to move on with their lives and that some spouses are unable to let go of the conflict even a decade after their divorce. Therapy and counselling is the only way to let it all go.
Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang