Non-Disclosure and Contempt of Court: Hutcheon v. Bissonnette, 2017 ONSC 1108

This recent decision serves as a cautionary tale to those who disobey disclosure orders. In his decision, Price J. ordered that the Respondent father pay $24,900 for his failure to disclose his financial information within a reasonable period of time.

Background

This case involves the Applicant mother urging the court to find the Respondent father in contempt of an order for disclosure, for the court to impose a penalty, and to strike out the pleadings of the father’s motion to change.

The dispute between the parties is over the father’s application to rescind arrears of support that have accrued for over 25 years in the amount of $202,430.30.

The mother, 54, and the father, also 54, met in 1981 when they were 19 years old. In the summer of 1982 they began a common-law relationship, which ended roughly 4 years later. Their daughter was born in November of 1983, and is now 33 years old.

The mother left Canada with the child when she was four years old and the father failed to provide any child support, in direct violation of a court order. The father alleges that the mother deliberately made the choice to raise their child without his support in order to deprive him of access, and she should no longer benefit from any retroactive child support. The mother alleges that she did not notify the father of her departure because he did not exercise access to the child in the four years since their separation, nor did he provide any information of his whereabouts. The mother, understandably so, believes that she should be compensated for the child costs that she has incurred over the years.

On June 8, 2015 Price J. ordered the parties to exchange financial information, however, the father failed to fully comply. Subsequently, the mother delivered a motion for an order finding the father in contempt for failing to comply with her request for financial disclosure.

The following December, Price J. found the father in contempt of his order for intentionally not providing same. In addition, Price J ordered the father to pay $100 per day until the order was fully complied with. Unfortunately, this did not prompt the father to disclose, and the matter came back before the court 240 days later. The mother suggested that the court remedy this by striking the father’s pleadings.

Analysis

Justice Price noted that on motion he may “strike out…any other document filed by the party,” pursuant to Rule 14 (23) of the Family Law Rules. Similarly, he noted that Rule 19(10) empowers the court to strike out a party’s answer where they fail to comply with an order requiring disclosure. Additionally, Rule 31(5) permits the court to impose penalties when it finds a person in contempt, such as to pay a monetary sum to another party.

Justice Price found that the father’s incomplete and delayed disclosure has caused the mother to incur substantial and unnecessary costs. He notes that delay in the payment of court-ordered support undermines the integrity and effectiveness of support orders. In his previous decision, Pinto v. Ponciano, 2016 ONSC 6466, Justice Price noted that issues of support depend on the parties’ compliance with the disclosure obligations because the law requires the Court to base its determinations of the spouses’ income on taxpayer information. Unfortunately, the Court is precluded from obtaining said information from the Canada Revenue Agency directly, so it is forced to rely on parties’ compliance. 

Justice Price decided that although he has jurisdiction to strike out pleadings, due to the unusual circumstances of this case, and since the case was getting ready for trial, it would not be appropriate to strike the father’s pleadings. Instead, he ordered that the father pay the penalty accruement, which amounted to $24,900, within 30 days. If the father continued to withhold his financial information the judge would permit the mother to renew her application to strike the father’s pleadings.

Andrew Feldstein

The Feldstein Family Law Group (FFLG) is one the largest family law firms that practices Family Law exclusively in Greater Toronto, with ten lawyers and counting. The boutique law firm has won the Top Choice Award for Family Law™ in Toronto for the past eleven years (2007 to 2017 inclusive).

Managing Partner Andrew Feldstein has been practicing family law for more than 20 years and frequently comments on Family Law issues through the media. The Feldstein Family Law Group offers vast written, video, and media resources on its website to those who find that they need to end their relationship.

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