Striking Pleadings in Family Litigation for Failure to Comply with Court Orders
A recent decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal emphasizes the grave consequences of failing to comply with court orders in the course of family litigation.
Under Rule 1(8) of the Family Law Rules, if a party fails to obey an order, the court may deal with the failure by making any order that it considers necessary for the just determination of the matter, including, in certain circumstances, striking the pleadings, including an Application, Answer, Reply, or any other document filed by the non-compliant party.
In Manchanda v. Thethi, the husband had breached court orders requiring him to deposit rental income, which he collected from jointly owned property, into a specified joint bank account. This issue had been subject to three court orders between December 2013 and June 2015 but the husband continued to remain in breach.
The husband was also found to be in breach of orders for financial disclosure. The case management judge had reviewed the parties' affidavit of documents and request for information and had made detailed orders for the parties to provide various documents. The husband breached these orders by failing to produce the documents ordered to be disclosed.
The wife moved to strike the husband’s pleadings under Rule 1(8). The motion judge found that the husband was in willful breach of the orders and struck his pleadings. The Ontario Court of Appeal dismissed the husband’s appeal.
In its decision, the Court of Appeal emphasized the importance of parties in family law matters to comply with their basic duty to disclose financial information.
 ….after continual admonitions by the courts and the legislature that parties to a matrimonial proceeding must produce financial documentation, willful non-compliance must be considered egregious and exceptional. This court has stated that the most basic obligation in family law proceedings is the duty to disclose financial information. The requirement is immediate and ongoing: Roberts v. Roberts, 2015 ONCA 450 (CanLII), 65 R.F.L. (7th) 6, at para. 11.) In 2015, Family Law Rule 13 was amended to emphasize a party’s financial disclosure obligations. A party’s non-compliance must be considered in the context of this strict financial disclosure obligation. Rule 1(8) provides the court with the authority to strike claims. Those who choose not to disclose financial information or to ignore court orders will be at risk of losing their standing in the proceedings as their claims or answers to claims may be struck.
Failure to comply with court orders or obligations under family law can have grave consequences for litigants. The court will use a variety of remedies to deal with parties in breach of court orders, including striking their pleadings in certain circumstances. More commonly, the court may order costs against these parties.
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 Family Law Rules (Superior Court of Justice and Ontario Court of Justice) — Ont. Reg. 114/99