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According to the Los Angeles Times, Lisa Marie Presley has been ordered to pay her estranged husband's legal fees as their divorce proceedings continue to get messy. Apparently, Presley has been ordered to pay Michael Lockwood's legal bill of $50,000 as an interim disbursement.

In Ontario, interim disbursements are governed by Rule 24(12) of the Family Law Rules. Pursuant to same, the court may make an order that a party pay an amount of money to another party to cover part or all of the expenses of carrying on the case.

For interim costs to be awarded there are several requirements including the following:

  • The party seeking the opportunity to proceed must be disadvantaged to some extent; and
  • Without an interim cost award, the party would be deprived of the opportunity to proceed with the case.

Generally, the party seeking the interim order for costs must prove that there are special circumstances sufficient to satisfy the court that the case is within the narrow class of cases in which it is appropriate for the court to exercise its extraordinary power in this regard.

In Stuart v Stuart, 24 RFL (5th) 188, Justice Rogers reviewed the aforementioned test for interim disbursements. In doing same, Justice Rogers notes that "the award should be made to level the playing field". This phrase has been used countless times thereafter as a justification for interim disbursements.

Furthermore, in one case in which the husband had not made accurate financial disclosure, Justice Edwards ordered that he pay the wife the sum of $125,000 without characterizing how it should be later considered. Ultimately, Justice Edwards left it to the trial judge to determine how the amount should be dealt with after full and frank disclosure had been made. Given same, it is clearly best to avoid having to make interim disbursements by making full and complete financial disclosure at the earliest possible stage in the proceedings.

It is not clear why Presley was ordered to make an interim disbursement to her ex-husband, whether it is to allow her ex-husband to proceed in the case or due incomplete financial disclosure, but it is clear that the couple's proceedings fall within the narrow class of cases in which a judge uses his or her discretion make an interim cost award.