Court of Appeal Agrees: Husband Found in Contempt and Pays $10,000 in costs
Marcus Sixta, Calgary and Vancouver Family Lawyer, mediator, collaborative divorce lawyer
Another Court of Appeal win for Crossroads Law. Family lawyers Marcus Sixta and Amanda Marsden were successful in defending against an appeal of a $10,000 costs award paid to our client, the former wife in a divorce case. The Appellant [former husband] had been found in civil contempt in the Calgary Court of Queen’s Bench and ordered to pay $10,000 to our client as a penalty.
This was a high conflict family law and divorce case.
The parties were in arbitration but the husband continually appealed arbitration decisions and failed to abide by court orders. After repeatedly contacting the wife’s lawyers, bankers and accountants an order was granted by the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench that he have no direct or indirect contact with the wife’s lawyers, accountants, bankers, experts hired by her for the family law case, employers, insurers, or any other third party professionals hired by her. Despite this he breached the order many times by contacting the wife’s lawyers.
After contacting the wife’s lawyer again, as well as breaching the order in other ways, the wife brought an application that the husband be held in contempt. The wife sought a large penalty to be imposed against the husband as he was earning over $2 Million per year and as he had failed to pay the wife many court ordered costs awards against him in the family law case. The Judge at the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench found that the husband had breached the order without reasonable excuse and held him in civil contempt and ordered that he pay $10,000 to the wife. He appealed.
The Alberta Court of Appeal decided that the judge at the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench got it right, that there was no error in the decision. The Court of Appeal also agreed that it is important to look at the entire context of the history of litigation when deciding how to determine a penalty for civil contempt and stated:
This court in Demb v Valhalla Group Ltd, 2016 ABCA 172 at para 55 listed a number of factors to be considered by a court in imposing penalties for civil contempt, including whether there was deliberate defiance of an order (as opposed to inadvertence), and the entire context of the litigation. The husband deliberately breached a clear order in the context of litigation where he had contacted the wife’s advisors in the past. Moreover, the husband has failed to pay a number of costs orders in the past. There is no reviewable error in the chambers judge’s imposition of a $10,000 award of costs as a penalty for civil contempt.
It was very clear that the Court of Appeal was not impressed with the husband’s conduct in the family law case, especially his failure to pay previous costs awards made against him. This should serve as a warning to anyone looking for a remedy from the courts; if you refuse to pay a cost award in your family law case, a judge is not going to be very supportive of your application.
The Calgary family lawyers at Crossroads Law have been successful in numerous contempt applications. If you are seeking to hold someone in civil contempt for failing to abide by an order, or if you are facing a contempt penalty, contact us at the number below for a FREE consultation.