Bullying in Family Law

Bullying is a common theme in family law. Family lawyers and judges often see one party attempt to exact favourable settlement terms from the other through threats and coercion. One of the most common examples is the threat that one party will have to declare bankruptcy if the other holds them to account for their spousal and child support obligations, leaving no money for any support.

The Supreme Court of British Columbia confronted this exact threat in B.J. v. K.C.W.J., 2015 BCSC 1746. Father, the breadwinner, had been bullying mother and pressuring her into an unfair out of court settlement without the guidance of family lawyers. In her affidavit, mother stated:

At times [father] has told me that if he has to pay the Guideline [i.e. required] amount of child support and spousal support that he would have to go bankrupt. This would leave no support for me or the children. Because I was unemployed, going to school, and caring for our boys, and struggling financially, I felt I needed to settle for whatever he was willing to pay.

The court did not have much patience for father’s litigation tactics. He was ordered to pay $3,764.00 in monthly child support and $6,487.00 in monthly spousal support.

The take away point from B.J. v. K.C.W.J. is that family lawyers and judges are there to stand up to bullies and ensure that a just result prevails at the end of the day.

Jeffrey L. Hartman 

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