Canada: Court Lifts Stay Of Proceedings To Enforce Costs Award Against Spouse

Fiorito v. Wiggins, 2017 ONCA 765

Background

Following eight years of protracted and acrimonious child custody litigation, the father of the children in question was awarded $200,000 in costs against their mother, who subsequently declared bankruptcy without having paid any of the costs award.  The father then brought a motion for an order annulling the mother's bankruptcy or, alternatively, lifting the stay of proceedings which is automatically granted under s. 69 of the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. B-3 ("BIA") for him to enforce the award.

Section 69.4 of the BIA allows the court to make a declaration that the automatic stay on bankruptcy does not operate in respect of the applying creditor where the creditor is likely to be materially prejudiced by the stay (s.69.4(a)), or where it is equitable on other grounds (s.69.4(b)).  

Motion Judge's Decision

The motion judge found that the father was entitled to have the stay lifted so that he could enforce his costs award against the mother's bankruptcy exempt assets.  The motion judge also ordered that the mother's discharge from bankruptcy be stayed for a reasonable period of time to allow the father to take the appropriate enforcement steps.

The motion judge relied on three main findings of fact: (i) the father's need to pursue lengthy custody litigation in order to have any relationship with his children; (ii) the mother's failure to pay anything toward the costs awarded in relation to that litigation; and (iii) the fact that the mother defeated the enforcement of the costs award by reneging on assurances she made to the court about her intent to pay the costs and not use bankruptcy to thwart that payment. 

The motion judge found that these factual circumstances differentiated the father's position from that of other creditors and established that he would be materially prejudiced by the continued operation of the stay by likely receiving nothing towards his costs award.  The motion judge noted that allowing the father to enforce that award against the mother's bankruptcy-exempt assets, including RRSPs, would not affect other creditors. She was also satisfied that it was equitable to grant the declaration in the circumstances.

Appeal Decision

On appeal, the mother argued that "material prejudice" under s. 69.4(a) of the BIA requires an applicant to show prejudice different from that experienced by other unsecured creditors.  As a result, the decision below was in error because the father's prejudice (receiving nothing on his costs award) was no different from that suffered by any other unsecured creditor in a bankruptcy.  The Court of Appeal disagreed with this argument, holding that, while differential treatment may justify a finding of material prejudice, it is not a necessary factor.  Material prejudice can arise in any situation when the bankruptcy would treat a creditor unfairly, differently or in some way worse than other creditors.

The mother also argued that the motion judge erred in finding that it was "equitable" to lift the stay of proceedings for the father under s. 69.4(b), in particular by considering the cause of the debt as part of her analysis of the equities.  The Court held that the motion judge was "clearly entitled to take into account the circumstances regarding the background to the debt" in finding that it was equitable to lift the stay in favour of the father, including the circumstances surrounding the acrimonious litigation which gave rise to the debt and the fact that the mother filed for bankruptcy after representing that she would not.  The Court noted that lifting the stay was also equitable in the circumstances because the father would be enforcing the costs award against exempt assets in the bankruptcy and other creditors would therefore not be affected.  

The mother also took the position that the trial judge misapprehended the evidence regarding the likelihood that the father would receive 'nothing' toward his costs award if the stay was not lifted.  Based on the potential for further growth of equity in her home and the value of her exempt assets, the mother argued that the father could have opposed her discharge from bankruptcy and that a bankruptcy court would likely then order that she make payment toward the costs award as a condition of her discharge.  The mother argued that, as a result of the motion judge's failure to recognize this, her decision had 'misapprehended and denigrated the bankruptcy regime and the rights of creditors under that regime'.   

The Court of Appeal again disagreed with the mother's view and held that the motion judge's finding about the father's likelihood of recovering on the costs award was reasonable based on the mother's statement of affairs.  Any potential increase in the value of the home was purely speculative.  Although it would be open for any creditor to oppose the discharge of a bankrupt, there was no guarantee that an order would be made or that funds would be available.  The use of 69.4 in the circumstances did not, as the mother suggested, denigrate the BIA regime. 

The Court also noted that, even if the father received a small dividend towards the $200,000 costs debt as opposed to nothing, given the findings of material prejudice and equitable circumstances, the order for a lift-stay in the father's favour was amply justified. 

Takeaways

  1. Material prejudice for the purposes of s.69.4(a) can arise in any situation when the bankruptcy would treat a creditor unfairly, differently or in some way worse than other creditors.
  2. The 'background' to a debt can be taken into account in determining whether a creditor should be granted a declaration lifting a stay under s.69.4(b).

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Related Articles
 
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions