A fresh perspective on divorce, spousal support, child support, parenting after separation and everything family law

Family Law: spouses behaving badly…and why you should behave (well)

Did this really happen?

 Mr. X purported to purchase a diamond ring of considerable size and value for his bride-to-be. He led her to believe it was an extremely expensive purchase when in fact it was a synthetic diamond that cost him $250.00. That ruse was continued through the marriage when some four years later he personally took the ring in to get cleaned and actually had it replaced with another synthetic stone as it appeared the first stone was showing signs of wear. He perpetuated a lie at the foundation of their relationship well into the marriage. This was discovered by Ms. X only after the separation and after she took the ring in for testing to a jeweller. While she may have had her doubts throughout the relationship she chose to believe the best of her fiancé and later her husband.

Yes, this did happen, in Alberta in 1999, as reported in an Alberta case from 2010.

"He told me he got it from Tiffany & Co..."

Not only does this decision provide a warning to those shopping for engagement rings (size matters… but lying about it matters more), it also provides a good reminder about the importance of honesty and integrity throughout your marriage (and divorce).  It is important to be honest and act in good faith because you have a moral obligation to your fellow human beings to do so, but also, if you are motivated by no other reason, note that your poor conduct can come back to haunt you at your divorce trial.

Mr. X’s conduct did not serve him well when he and Ms. X got (inevitably) divorced.

As the Honourable Justice D.K. Miller stated later on in the decision:

Credibility is absolutely crucial in a trial like this…Credibility or believability of a witness is not so much a science but an art.  Credibility has at least two aspects to it.  First, the truthfulness of the witness and secondly, the reliability of the witness. We must first answer the question: is the witness trying to tell the truth and not trying to be deceitful? After that question is answered, such that the witness is worthy of belief, is the factual content, in other words, are the actual words said by the witness trustworthy, accurate and reliable.

In assessing the evidence of the parties and keeping in mind the two step process I just described, I am then left with combining experience, logic, the demeanor of the witnesses, common sense and a whole host of other human characteristics. Things like the general integrity and intelligence of the witness, their power to observe, capacity to remember and their accuracy, as well as all other evidence tendered in the case.

It is true Ms. X may be a little vague or lacking in some details. She may not have recalled everything perfectly. This may be because she trusted completely and unequivocally the man with whom she expected to spend the rest of her life. Many of the details around 1999 and 2000 were not as important to her because she made certain assumptions. These were assumptions based on trust.

On the other hand Mr. X was strategic and somewhat cunning, if not deceitful and parsimonious, when he started this relationship. This continued throughout their engagement, on their wedding day, and throughout their marriage. It would stretch the bounds of common sense and all judicial reasoning in my view to accept Mr. X’s evidence over Ms. X’s. Without hesitation I accept the credibility of Ms. X over that of Mr. X. In any area where there is a conflict between the parties I will accept her evidence. I found her to be fair and balanced in her evidence and in describing Mr. X she was astonishingly even handed, a treatment that one would not expect from a woman who was personally insulted by a man who passed off a $250.00 synthetic stone for an extremely expensive diamond.

 There is nothing wrong with a man giving his fiancé a $250.00 synthetic diamond. However, when he leads his fiancé and the whole world to believe it is worth several thousand dollars, when he himself is a very successful businessman with a net worth of three million dollars, he does not start well.

Another example of  a spouse behaving badly (and later having it come back to haunt them at trial is the Daved v. Daved decision of the Honourable Justice Greckol of the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench:

There is further evidence to support my assessment of the respective credibility of Mr. and Ms. Daved. After separation, Ms. Daved lived in subsidized housing provided by the Capital Region Housing Corporation. On June 26, 2008, Mr. Daved’s then counsel wrote to the Housing Corporation requesting a copy of Ms. Daved’s application in order to verify that she had provided accurate income information, indicating that “…be advised we have concerns as to Ms. Daved providing yourselves correct information.” The letter then set out the amount of spousal support received by Ms. Daved for 2006, 2007 and 2008. Ms. Daved was called in by the  Housing Corporation to give an account of herself and provide further information.

The actions of Mr. Daved’s representative caused her to endure the stress and uncertainty of whether she would have a roof over her head. In other words, Mr. Daved tried to have Ms. Daved and her son thrown out of their rented subsidized housing after the separation, well knowing that she left the marriage with nothing and was receiving minimal support from him, based on an inaccurately low deemed income.

In summary, I reject Mr. Daved’s evidence that Ms. Daved did little or nothing to support their family operation and I accept Ms. Daved’s evidence that she worked side by side with Mr. Daved in the joint enterprise that was their family life, including work in the business, in the home, on the farm with the animals, in the gardens, doing everything she could to contribute to and support the family.

In this two week trial, I got to sit as second counsel to Renee R. Cochard, Q.C. and represent Ms. Daved, which was a wonderful experience.

It is important to note that it is not only men in Alberta behaving badly and having it catch up with them later. In the widely reported case of Bruni v. Bruni both parties were called out by Justice J.W. Quinn for their poor conduct.

The point of this blog is not to make light of individual situations – it is to encourage people to act in good faith during their marriage (and divorce), if for no other reason then to improve their credibility before the court.

 * Note…Mr. X and Mrs. X are not the names used in the actual court decision.

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