The implementation of the amendments to the Family Law Rules with respect to financial disclosure highlights the importance of disclosure in family law proceedings. If this is not enough for parties to understand that financial disclosure is imperative to any family law matter involving financial issues, the recent decision of the Court of Appeal in the case of Roberts v Roberts, 2015 CarswellOnt 9247 should hammer the message home.
The Superior Court of Justice struck the husband’s pleadings for failure to comply with Orders requiring him to disclose financial information and granted leave for the wife to proceed with an uncontested trial.
The wife brought a motion for disclosure after the exchange of pleadings in this case and an Order was made on consent. The husband did not comply with the order and the wife brought a further motion for disclosure. A second disclosure order was made on consent. After several requested items of disclosure were not produced the wife brought a motion to strike the husband’s pleadings. Justice Howden gave the husband a third opportunity to provide the disclosure, by making a further order for disclosure, which specified that if disclosure is not provided, the wife may renew her motion to strike the pleadings. Some time thereafter, the wife brought another motion to strike the husband’s pleadings for “persistent and ongoing failure to provide court ordered disclosure”. The pleadings were struck at this stage.
The husband appealed to the Court of Appeal. The Appeal was dismissed.
Justice Bento, speaking for the Court of Appeal stated:
The most basic obligation in family law is the duty to disclose financial information. This requirement is immediate and ongoing.
Failure to abide by this fundamental principle impedes the progress of the action, causes delay and generally acts to the disadvantage of the opposite party. It also impacts the administration of justice. Unnecessary judicial time is spent and the final adjudication is stalled.
Financial disclosure is automatic. It should not require court orders – let alone three – to obtain production.
Justice Bento also stated that the husband’s conduct in ignoring court orders and failing to follow the basic principles of family law litigation put him in the exceptional category of cases where the judge’s discretion to strike his pleadings was reasonably exercised.
This is an important lesson to parties involved in family law matters, that the disclosure obligation is not taken lightly and it will not be acceptable for a party to bury their head in the sand and hope that the disclosure obligation will go away. The consequences for failure to disclose can clearly be very serious!