Cassidy v. Cassidy: Financial Consequences with Contempt of Court

This Ontario Superior Court decision provided an excellent overview of how contempt orders operate in the province of Ontario. This case outlines the many different ways a court can craft a contempt order; and serves as a warning to individuals who are flaunting court orders.

This case began as a contempt motion by the applicant wife; regarding a divorce order the parties received in November 14, 2007, in terms of the corollary relief in the order. The respondent husband had failed to disclose within ten days a Notice of Re-Assessment, and by failing to transfer his interest in the parties' farm to the applicant wife. The court found the respondent in contempt and then determined what the penalty should be imposed upon the respondent for his contempt.

The court first discussed Rule 31(5) of the Family Law Rules which states:

31.(5) If the court finds a person in contempt of the court, it may order that the person,

(a) be imprisoned for any period and on any conditions that are just;

(b) pay a fine in any amount that is appropriate;

(c) pay an amount to a party as a penalty;

(d) do anything else that the court decides is appropriate;

(e) not do what the court forbids;

(f) pay costs in an amount decided by the court; and

(g) obey any other order

The court evaluated each of these options. The court stated that contempt penalties should be comprised of two components; it should be restorative to the victim of contempt and punitive to the contemnor. The court considered the following factors in determining the proper punishment:

  1. the available sentences;
  2. the proportionality of the sentence to the wrongdoing;
  3. the similarity of sentences in like circumstances;
  4. the presence of mitigating factors;
  5. the presence of aggravating factors;
  6. deterrence;
  7. the reasonableness of a fine;
  8. the reasonableness of incarceration.

The court then applied these considerations to the facts of the case. The respondent sought credit for payments he made towards the mortgage on matrimonial home during a period up until July of 2008. The court pointed out that he would not have had to make these payments had he transferred the interest in the farm to the applicant. The court determined that he would have been entitled to a credit; had he not been found in contempt of the Divorce Order. The court used the payments as the punishment; blocking a credit for the mortgage payments. The court further required him to make further mortgage payments until the property was transferred. The court determined this would be the most reasonable punishment for the respondent; it served as an economic disadvantage but was not severe enough warrant incarceration. The court stated that incarceration was appropriate in cases where there are no less restrictive sanctions appropriate, or where there have been multiple breaches of court orders.

The court stated that the respondent did not deny the facts that constituted contempt, though he did not admit his contempt. This functioned as a mitigating factor but was not enough to excuse his contempt. The court also awarded costs against the respondent; stating the contemnor (in this case the respondent) must pay the solicitor and client costs of the other party. This case demonstrated the wide range of different punishments a court can level against a person found in contempt; and the severe financial consequences that can go along with it.

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