21 January 2009

2008 In Review, Part 3: Case Law Roundup

This is an overview of some of the more interesting cases decided in 2008. The summaries below aren't a proper digest of each case, they just focus on the one or two issues which made the case interesting.

H(SM) v. P(R), 2008 BCSC

This case is a nice update on the law of retroactive child support. The wife sought a retroactive order going back to 2002 based on undisclosed increases in the husband's income. The court said that the simple payment of child support, which the husband had been doing all along, creates a presumption that the payor had discharged his duty. Given the wife's delay in bringing her application and the absence of any evidence that the child had suffered, the court only made an order with retroactive effect commencing mid-2007, the date when the parties exchanged financial statements.

Gonabady-Namadon v. Mohammadzadeh, 2008 BCSC

In this case, the husband, who lived most of the time in Iran, had been sending about $12,000 a month back to Canada to support his wife and children here. Following separation, the husband stopped supporting his family, pleading poverty. The court found that the husband hadn't made sufficient disclosure and imputed income to him of $250,000 a year for the purposes of support. The moral? If you're trying to duck a support obligation, you must make full and complete financial disclosure.

Loesch v. Walji, 2008 BCCA

In this case, the husband was found at an interim application to have an income of $1,600,000 per year, which figure was used to calculate a spousal support obligation of $50,000 per month, even though the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines suggested that only the first $350,000 of the husband's income should be used to calculate his support obligation. The decision was upheld on appeal, partly on the basis that appellate courts should be very, very reluctant to interfere with interim orders.

Sihota v. Sihota, 2008 BCSC

The court in this case confirmed the dire consequences to one parent when the other parent has sole custody and sole guardianship. The mother had previously obtained an order for sole custody and sole guardianship and decided to send the child to school overseas. The husband objected and the court held that as the mother was the only person with custody and guardianship she alone had the right to make decisions about the child's living arrangements.

Majhenic v. Majhenic
, 2008 BCSC

This is case is important for its discussion of the idea of "foreseeability" in variation applications. Where an order has been made about support or the care and control of children, it is usually open to someone to try and change the order where there has been a unforseeable change in circumstances. In this case, the husband had agreed at age 62 to an order requiring him to pay spousal support of $1,000 per month. On the husband's retirement at age 66 he applied to cancel his support obligation. The court required his support payments should end in three years on the basis that the husband's retirement was plainly foreseeable and it was unreasonable for the wife to assume his support payments would be permanent.

Trif v. Trif, 2008 BCSC

This case is remarkable for its unsual parenting arrangements. After separation, the wife sought to move from the Lower Mainland to Vancouver Island to pursue a new relationship and she applied for sole custody of the child. The father opposed the application and said that either the child should live with him or they should share the child's time on a rotating weekly basis. The court, after seriously criticizing a custody and access report, said that the child's time would be shared on a rotating yearly basis.

Stein v. Stein, 2008 SCC

This case is a bit complicated, but essentially the Supreme Court of Canada decided that a judge at trial can allocate responsibility for debts relating to the marriage that may or may not come into existence in the future and be for an unknown amount. The debt in question related to a tax shelter the parties had invested in during the marriage which was subject to unknown future tax consequences.

Francis v. Logan, 2008 BCSC

This is another variation-of-spousal-support-on-retirement case. Unlike Majhenic, however, the husband applied to reduce or end his spousal support obligation on retirement at age 63. The court refused the application as the husband's early retirement was entirely discretionary and not due to some illness or economic cause, and was done in the face of his spousal support obligation. The court allowed the husband to reapply when he turned 65.

Label v. Albanese, 2008 BCSC

The interesting part about this case concerns an application for retroactive child support made after the child had ceased to be a dependent minor child. The court dismissed the claim, saying that a child had to be a "child" as defined by the Family Relations Act at the time an application for child support is made, including an application for retroactive child support.