In a recent post about a mother being found in contempt of court, we discussed the notion that an Ontario Family Court judge cannot make an order that is essentially designed to “punish” you or your Ex for bad, unco-operative behavior in the context of your separation or divorce.
But this is only one narrow exception: Family Law judges still have a very broad discretion in terms of the types of orders they can make. Some of these may surprise you.
For example, under the Family Law Rules, which govern the procedure around having matters heard in Ontario Family Courts, judges are specifically allowed to prevent you from participating in your own divorce or family law proceedings in certain circumstances.
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This was illustrated in a family law case called Gordon v. Starr, 2007 CanLII 35527 (ON SC), where the one of the parties had been ordered, as an interim step in a custody matter peppered with “unrelenting” motions and affidavits, to pay a relatively small amount in legal costs. She claimed she was unable to pay it; however, there was evidence that she was deliberately unemployed. The judge then barred her from proceeding any further until those costs had been paid.
The judge emphasized that its orders had to be followed with “strict obedience”, saying:
Court orders are not made as a form of judicial exercise. An order is an order, not a suggestion. Non-compliance must have consequences. One of the reasons that many family proceedings degenerate into an expensive merry-go-round ride is the all-too-common casual approach to compliance with court orders.
The judge also pointed out that it didn’t matter that the payment was small; nor was it necessary that multiple orders are breached before a court can bar you. A default in complying with even a single order can be enough. And while the Family Law Rules do provided for a limited exception, it can be invoked in only extraordinary circumstances.
What’s the bottom line? The general rule is that no litigant will be spared from obeying a court order.
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.