Agressive litigation and the pitfalls of financial disclosure — Stuyt v. Stuyt
Family law cases have as their hallmark complete financial disclosure. If litigants have enough information, they can settle their disputes.
That principle usually operates in sync with some other fundamental principles, including:
- Proceedings should be brought on notice;
- Decisions should be based on evidence.
Simple enough? Apparently not.
In the case of Stuyt v. Stuyt, a wife obtained a court order striking the husband’s Answer (his defense) because she alleged that he defaulted in providing financial disclosure. The problem was that she obtained the order without notice to the husband, without disclosing all the facts to the motions judge, and without filing any evidence (such as a sworn affidavit) to support the relief. Clearly, the motions judge should not have made the order, but it took two years of wasted resources and wasted time (including an undefended trial) before the Court of Appeal corrected the error and sent everything back to the trial judge.
To what extent excessive and aggressive lawyering contributed to the two year court odyssey is unknown. At the end of the two years, the parties’ were no closer to a resolution.
Family law cases, like other disputes, are often shaped because of one party’s missteps and mistakes. One wonders to what extent the wife will wish to continue with her claims, or to what extent she will discount them in order to bring the Stuyt matter to a conclusion.