British Columbia Dentist Found to be a Vexatious Litigant

Written on behalf of Arbesman Hamilton LLP

Self-representation in family court is often criticized for clogging the courts as people attempt to navigate a complex system on their own while also dealing with the emotions involved in a family law matter.

A recent British Columbia Supreme Court case addressed a self-represented litigant who employed strange and aggressive tactics which ultimately led to him being labeled a vexatious litigant – someone who brings legal actions or motions without merit with the intent to harass or burden another party.

The separation

The case revolved around an application from a woman (the applicant) separating from a common law relationship with a man ( the respondent). They had lived together for five years and have two children, aged 6 and 9 at the time of the trial in early 2017. The couple’s original divorce case was in 2012. The case saw sole custody of the children awarded to the applicant as well as monthly child support payments of $7,900 and spousal support payments of $9,000 from the respondent, who is a dentist with an annual income of $610,000.

An abandoned appeal

In 2014, the respondent was found in contempt of court for failing to pay the amounts ordered. He successfully set aside the contempt finding, but was ordered to make support payments from time to time.

By April of 2017, he was in arrears of $448,000 and had not further pursued his appeal against support payments. Instead he filed two civil suits, alleging that the applicant had conspired with the Canada Revenue Agency against him and that the applicant was in breach of trust with respect to the holding of gold coins meant to be given to the couple’s children. The gold coin litigation resulted in the respondent filing four separate appeals, including one requesting the removal of the judge presiding over the case.

The applicant eventually brought an application to have the respondent declared a vexatious litigant, which would mean he would be unable to file further court actions without a judge’s express permission. The applicant showed the respondent had filed 98 affidavits, some of which exceeded 2,500 pages in length. He had also sought 64 separate orders in 2016 alone. He also sued the counsel for the Family Maintenance Enforcement Program, who was responsible for collection proceedings against him.

When the hearing for the vexatious litigant application was set to begin, the respondent sought adjournment, filing thousands of pages of documents with the applicant’s legal team the day before the hearing. He also checked himself into a hospital, but was released without any medication, driving himself home.

The evidence of the respondent’s behavior led the Supreme Court of British Columbia to

“conclude that (the respondent) has been using the judicial process in a manner calculated to divert attention from the real issues outstanding between the parties – his annual income, the amount of support he should pay, and his rights and obligations as a parent. Even Dr. Hokhold admits that he is “tired” as a result of the litigation, and there are more than a few judges who feel the same.”

The lawyers at Arbesman Hamilton LLP have experience in separation, divorce and child/spousal support disputes. Our pragmatic approach to family law issues focuses on what our clients are really fighting for, and we strive to resolve family law issues amicably and efficiently. We work to protect our clients’ rights while mitigating risk and planning for the future. Contact us online or by phone at (416) 481-5604 to schedule a consultation today.