The new Family Law Act has, at its core, the promotion of dispute resolution through means other than the court. One of the foundational needs in resolution of family conflicts is full disclosure of a party’s finances. A recent BC Supreme Court decision gives us some idea of how the court will use its powers unde rthe Act to promote full disclosure: financial punishment!

Although modest on the one hand, the award of costs and financial penalties, sends the signal that the court will use the powers its been given under the new Act to promote compliance with disclosure obligations.

In  J.D.G. v J.J.V. 2013 BCSC 1274, the husband had failed repeatedly to provide required financial disclosure, including failure to comply with court ordered production. At the end of the day, notwithstanding the complexity of his finances (his excuse for not providing same), the court penalized the husband.

Mr. Justice Punnett relied on s.213 of the Family Law Act to penalize the husband with court costs, a financial penalty, and “costs thrown away”. The Court stated:

The goal of proper disclosure is to enable the parties to resolve their dispute. In my opinion, s.213 is to be used to secure proper disclosure in a timely and cost efficient way. It therefore requires a robust application to accomplish that end. That should increase the awareness of the importance of timely and complete disclosure and over time lead to fewer applications. In other words, punishment per se is not the end, but rather the means, as the information is required to resolve matters in a just manner. S.213 provides a mixture of tools to be applied creatively in a manner sensitive to the issues of a particular case.

The variety of available coercive tools under s.213 is extensive so in keeping with the new focus on timely cost effective resolution of matrimonial disputes the court is early on sending us the signal that failure to comply with required financial disclosure will lead to penalties.