BC FAMILY NON-DISCLOSURE LAWYERS help you obtain justice when a spouse hides or makes it difficult to find family property or income. Judges have had enough of what they call the “cancer of matrimonial litigation “
Disclosure in BC family law cases is so important that the Family Lawyers at MacLean Law have blogged this series to continue demonstrating the consequences of playing fast and loose with financial information during divorce proceedings. In today’s blog senior Vancouver associate Tal Wolf, explains the legal facts of life and consequences when someone attempts to deceive their spouse in a Vancouver family separation case.
There is no way around it: in order to properly negotiate or litigate child support, spousal support, or matrimonial property, the parties need to have accurate information about each other’s incomes, assets, and liabilities. The more disclosure the better, so that all parties and the court can feel confident that the outcome is fair. Unless there is some compelling reason to withhold the information, it’s best to simply share it. Failing to provide disclosure wastes time and money for everyone involved. It’s nearly impossible to begin the process of resolving money matters until the party who historically been on the outside of the family’s financial dealings is given the opportunity to thoroughly examine under the hood.
In British Columbia, the mandatory nature of financial disclosure is unambiguously etched in several rules and statutes both in the Supreme Court Family Rules, and separately in the Family Law Act. Together, they provide that parties have an affirmative duty to disclose (including in sworn form) all data and supporting documentation concerning their income, assets, liabilities and more. Likewise, robust enforcement provisions for non-compliance not only including fines and reimbursement of the enforcing party’s legal fees, but also the devastating consequence known as the “adverse inference.” Federal Child Support Guideline Lawyers at MacLean Law’s Vancouver Office also will use s.21-25 of the Guidelines to buttress Provincial law requirements. In short, if you don’t disclose information that the Court suspects you are sitting on, you may simply be attributed whatever financial advantage it seems you are hiding. Our top-rated BC FAMILY NON-DISCLOSURE LAWYERS suggest against giving the court the wrong impression. Even 1 mistake can lead to you being disbelieved on issues where you are being honest.
A non-lawyer may find it difficult to know what falls into this category. Also, when relationships break down, emotions can cloud a party’s sense of what is reasonable. The requesting party must balance the necessity of obtaining relevant financial information with seeking information for curiosity’s sake or to be malicious. The providing party must balance the requirement to provide relevant information and the desire to keep finances private or to be difficult.
What is relevant and material will depend on each case, but information about one’s income is always relevant for support and the information about the value of assets and debts is always relevant for property division. Other kinds of information may not be quite so obvious. For example, health information is usually not relevant. However, if someone is claiming they cannot work due to their health, then it is. So long as the information sheds light on a point in the dispute, it is likely relevant and material.
The risk of not fully disclosing relevant financial information is that the case may be unnecessarily drawn out, agreements that are reached can be overturned, and significant costs can be awarded against a party. Our BC FAMILY NON-DISCLOSURE LAWYERS have jailed spouses for lying, raided corporate offices and found millions of missing cash and destroyed lying witnesses in court.
In the recent decision of L.W. v. F.W., 2018 BCSC 1924, the wife contended that the husband had hidden funds in undisclosed bank accounts, or that he had used funds to purchase undisclosed assets. She had no evidence to support her allegations (almost always the case when assets are “hidden”). Instead, she relied on the the adverse inference she argued the Court should have drawn from the husband’s failures to abide by his document production obligations (both in terms of timing and substance) during the litigation.
Mr. Justice Walker agreed that in addition to his failure to disclose certain significant debts during their marriage, the husband delayed and in some instances failed completely to provide the disclosure required by the Supreme Court Family Rules. The Judge rejected many of the explanations provided for the husband’s failures (such as the all-too-common “inability” to amass the documents as a self-represented litigant). The husband was found to have given no reasonable explanation. The wife argued that merely awarding her costs of the family proceedings was not going to be a sufficient remedy for the husband’s behaviour, and that indeed the Court should proceed to infer that the husband held undisclosed assets. After all, the husband had made the choice not to show his cards:
71 F.W. denied all suggestions of hiding funds or assets when it was put to him in cross-examination. At one juncture during his closing argument, F.W. conceded that he could not provide an accounting for approximately $1.156 million of funds he received from his corporate interests. The only explanation he could provide was that he spent cash for the benefit of his wife and family, such as meals out, travel, home renovations, and expensive gift items. He characterized the cash outlay to be an average of $159,000 per year. Some receipts to support his submission were in evidence, such as the purchase of expensive handbags for L.W., some meals out, and some of the children’s activities, but they were only a small fraction of the amount.
72 F.W. prepared several varied iterations of written submissions attempting to account for his use of funds. Even on his best argument, F.W. was still unable to account for over $400,000.
74 From her detailed analysis of the documents and evidence produced by F.W., L.W.’s counsel has established on behalf of her client that F.W. has not accounted for $1,947,766 of funds he has received. Even assuming that F.W. could demonstrate that he is entitled to full credit for his credit card charges (which L.W. took issue with), the dollar amount of unaccounted for funds would nevertheless still be at least $1.5 million.
Ultimately, the wife did not even claim for any portion of the hidden assets. Instead, she relied on the fact of hidden assets as a basis to reapportion a potential high value third party debt, which the husband asserted was a family debt.
If you are divorcing and have been on the controlling end of the family finances, MacLean Law Financial Disclosure Lawyers will help make sure you are providing the correct information to your spouse. If you have been on the short end, we will use all of the robust legal weapons at our disposal to level the information playing field so that you can turn the page and resolve your family matter with confidence.
Tal Wolf looks forward to your call. Call him direct at Tel 604 697 2830