The Vancouver and New Westminster locations of the British Columbia Supreme Court announced on July 14, 2014 that a new Family Law Pilot Project will start on September 2, 2014. The project will involve appointing a roster of judges that will be assigned to preside exclusively over family law applications and trials for a period of approximately six months each. The project is slated to continue for two years, and will be supported by dedicated legal counsel who will provide research support to our BC Supreme Court Justices. This is great news for family lawyers as the area of family law can be quite different from civil litigation, and many justices have no experience practicing family law when they take up their spot on the bench. The pilot project is perfectly timed to address the uncertainty surrounding the new Family Law Act and some of the trickier questions that have emerged from its interpretation.
On Monday, July 14, 2014, the Supreme Court of British Columbia published a recent judgment by the Honourable Mr. Justice Jenkins wherein the payor husband was found in contempt of court for failing to comply with an order to pay child support.
The parties had attended a trial before the same Justice in 2012 and the Court imputed an income of $110,000 to the payor husband, despite the payor husband arguing that his true income was significantly lower. In February 2014, the husband stopped making the ordered child support payments and unilaterally reduced the amounts he provided to the recipient wife, saying that he would be making payments calculated according to a lower income that he said he was earning.
On application, Mr. Justice Jenkins rejected the husband’s evidence that the husband had become destitute and was financially incapable of complying with the child support order. The Court commented that the husband’s evidence was disorganized and failed to raise a reasonable doubt as to his ability to comply with the order. The Court concluded that the husband’s disobedience of the court order was willful, and sentenced him to 7 days imprisonment, which sentence was suspended for 30 days to allow the husband some time to pay the child support arrears of over $19,000 in order to purge his contempt.
An interesting point made in this judgment is that the Court specifically rejected the husband’s argument that the wife’s refusal to allow access to the child caused him to incur legal fees (to pursue applications for access), which legal fees made it impossible for him to pay the support. Relying on the comments of another judge in 2012, Mr. Justice Jenkins said, “a parent is not entitled to deprive his or her children to pay litigation expenses” (at paragraph 25). So the take-home message is to make the payment of child support a priority to your legal fees.
You can see the full text of the decision here: T.T. v. C.G., 2014 BCSC 1279.
*Nothing in this post constitutes legal advice and is for general informational purposes only. To establish a solicitor-client relationship with Virginia K. Richards please contact her at Henderson Heinrichs LLP using the information on the Contact Page.