The courts, including those having jurisdiction over family law matters are an important representation of the state. When the court makes an Order, it is not one solely between the litigants, but more importantly, is viewed as an Order by the court itself.
Failing to obey an Order of the court, can in certain circumstances lead to the court viewing the offending party as showing disrespect, not only to the other party (often an estranged spouse), but to the authority of the court itself.The court has many tools to deal with such contempt including striking the pleadings of the offending party, and its ultimate resource jailing the contemptuous party.Striking pleadings means that one is no longer a participant in the court process and the other party can proceed as if the offender had never filed any documents and was not participating in the law suit. The court would only hear one side before making its decision.
Examples of contempt are failure to pay the full amount of support that is required, not preserving assets if they had been so ordered or refusing to transfer property pursuant to a court Order.The most severe of remedies, namely jail, is rarely administered. However, this power was recently brought into sharp relief in the recent Ontario Superior Court decision of Picken v Picken.In that case, the husband had been ordered within a divorce action to preserve the sale proceeds from the sale of a property. Eventually there was to be a payment to the wife for her share of $154,000.00, yet the husband, in the face of a direct Order to the contrary, dealt with the proceeds unilaterally and had kept out of the sale proceeds of more than $400,000.00, only $77,000.00.
The court felt that this lack of respect for the court process and an Order of the court could only be remedied by a finding of contempt which included a jail sentence of thirty days.The husband was lead out of the court room in handcuffs and in an alarming twist, found himself housed for most of his sentence in a maximum security jail sharing a pod with six accused killers.At times, a litigant would be excused for feeling that the court process is cumbersome, expensive and ineffective, but occasionally the court will flex its muscle.
A finding of contempt is an extremely technical and difficult process. The lawyers of Dale Streiman Law LLP have a great deal of experience, both in bringing and responding to such an application.
By: Fred Streiman