Contempt Motions and Estate Litigation – Part III
Part V of the Succession Law Reform Act (“SLRA”) provides the legislative framework for claims by a dependent of an estate. It sets out:
(i) who is a dependent;
(ii) what rights a dependant has in relation to the estate;
(iii) the circumstances the court should consider in determining the amount of support that should be awarded; and
(iv) the kinds of orders the court can make for the satisfaction of a dependent support claim.
Rule 60.11 of the Rules of Civil Procedure explicitly states that a party may pursue a contempt motion in order to pursue those who violate court orders other than for the payment of money.
Some have argued that, even in the face of the language of Rule 60.11, support orders involving the payment of money should be enforceable through a contempt proceeding.
In 2000, in its decision of Forrest v. Lacroix Estate (2000) 187 D.L.R. (4th) 280, (Ont. C.A.) the Court of Appeal set aside a contempt order made as a result of a failure to pay a SLRA dependent support award, affirming that Rule 60.11 does not permit contempt orders for the payment of money.
At the contempt proceeding in the Forrest case, the Judge attempted to reason around the language of Rule 60.11 regarding the payment of money in considering the contempt. The testator had named his son trustee and sole beneficiary of his estate, valued at $900,000. The testator died without making provisions for his common law wife of 19 years. The son dissipated the estate assets in the face of a specific order prohibiting dissipation, such that the value of the estate was reduced to $48,000 at trial. The son was ordered to pay the common law wife $300,000 under the SLRA. The wife moved for an order holding the son in contempt of court for failing to pay. The son was ordered committed to jail for nine months unless he purged contempt within 28 days by paying the common law wife. The contempt order was made as the Judge held that such an order was akin to orders enforcing family law support payments, and as it is in the public interest that those who choose to ignore court orders should be punished.
The Court of Appeal, however, after an extensive canvassing of the law, was unequivocal in finding that Rule 60.11 contempt orders cannot be used to enforce orders for payments of money, including the payment of SLRA dependant support awards or for payments under the Family Law Act.
The Court of Appeal’s decision in Forrest was followed by the Ontario Court of Appeal in its decision in Murano in 2002. In discussing the requirements for contempt motions under the Family Law Rules, the Court of Appeal adopted the decision in Forrest, writing:
“…the effect of rules 60.05 and 60.11(1)…is to remove the court’s inherent jurisdiction to use the contempt power to enforce an order for the payment of money in cases governed by the Rules…It was taken as a given that the plain language of 60.05 and 60.11(1) do not permit contempt proceedings under those rules to enforce orders for the payment of money…I find that the reasoning in Forrest v. Lacroix, is equally applicable to the Family Law Rules.”
While contempt motions may not be used to enforce the payment of SLRA dependent support awards, they may still be appropriate to address the failure of a party to transfer assets (other than the payment of money) as required or the failure to act pursuant to an Order in respect of assets (and/or liabilities) in proceedings involving the SLRA.
Have a great day, Craig.