Plotting Something Sneaky? The Court Has Remedies!

August 29, 2013
Ron Shulman

Article written by Ron Shulman

Family Law disputes tend not to bring out the best in people; in fact, they often bring out the worst.   Some Ex-spouses seem to view their separation and divorce as a blow to their ego, and either stall the family litigation process, or try to use it as a way to “get back” or “get even” with their Exes.

Fortunately, courts are well-equipped to deal with these scenarios, and have an array of remedies to address sneaky, underhanded tactics and bad faith conduct by former spouses towards each other.

A good example of this is the family law court case Verch v. Verch, 2012 ONSC 4593.   There, as part of the normal separation process the wife had been given temporary exclusive possession of the matrimonial home by a court, and was entitled to live there with the four children of the marriage.   But since the husband owned the home when they married, title to the home remained in his name pending a full resolution of their divorce issues.  By court order, he was responsible for paying the outstanding property taxes and keeping up the home insurance policy until trial.

So the husband developed a plan:   He decided to stop paying the property taxes and let the home insurance lapse.    This way, he could force the municipality to sell the home under a Tax Sale, but then secretly re-purchase it himself (using a complicit friend to front the real estate purchase).

But the court saw through his plot.  After rejecting the husband’s claim that he was unable to pay the property taxes due to a decline in his business, it used its power to make what is known as a “vesting order”:  it transferred title to the house to the wife in her sole name.  By deliberately choosing not to pay the taxes, the husband had put the couple’s most significant asset in jeopardy.  The vesting order was needed to protect the home pending the divorce trial.

The court went further and awarded the wife almost $7,000 in court costs.  Observing that the husband’s “stratagem was transparent”, and citing his repeated disobedience of prior court orders, failure to explain his conduct to the court, and failure to file documents as ordered, the court concluded that he was acting in bad faith.  Under the Family Law Rules, such a finding allowed the court to order him to pay the wife’s full costs, payable immediately.

Like it or not, Courts are probably smarter than you.  Underhanded plots to circumvent the litigation process, or to and avoid undesired outcomes in family disputes, usually have even worse consequences.

Shulman Law Firm is a Toronto-area firm of experienced Family Lawyers who can provide practical advice and effective representation relating to the steps and processes involved in separating and getting divorced in Ontario.   Contact us to set up a consultation.