Family In Court 50 Times

Family In Court 50 Times

October 30, 2013 By Janko Predovic

In a dreadful example of how the courts are far from the ideal place in which to resolve one’s family differences, below is an excerpt from the recent BC Supreme Court case of Koch v. Underhill, decided by the Honourable Mr. Justice Groves.

The decision highlights the great waste of time and resources that ensues when parties in family litigation fail to adequately disclose financial information, and decide instead to argue the same issues repeatedly in a court not designed to address the needs of families. Not to mention, the tremendous waste of time and resources having to re-explain the facts of the case to each new Master or Judge at each subsequent appearance. Think of this case, and how it could have been different if the parties had chosen to follow Collaborative Law methods: full, frank and honest disclosure at the outset of the file… reasonable, open-minded discussions with a view to quick and cost-effective settlement… keeping the children in the centre of the discussion as opposed to using them to manipulate the other party…

Preserve the equity in your home, keep your wallet secure, and protect your children. Collaborate and Mediate is the message to take away from this mess.

Koch v. Underhill, 2013 BCSC 1889
Date: 20131017
Registry: Vancouver

CLAIMANT: Laura Helen Koch
RESPONDENT: Graham Dacre Underhill

MR. JUSTICE GROVES:
…in addition to attendances before Registrars, is that the parties have attended before Masters or Justices of this court in excess of 50 times. By my review, the parties have attended before 6 different Masters of the court and 22 Justices of the court from 1997, when their litigation began through their last attendance before me on the 25th of March 2013.

The litigation began when their eldest child, Tristan, was not quite three years old and their daughter, Katrina, was not quite one year old. Tristan is now, as of April 15, 2013, 19 years old and Katrina, as of April 14, 2013, is 17 years old. With the exception of a period of time between November 1999 and October 2002, the British Columbia Supreme Court has, in each and every year, since 1997 issued orders involving the dispute between these parties.

This litigation history is unfortunate, and is a fine example of two facts. One fact is the difficulties that individuals face in marriage-breakdown when they take an aggressive and blindsided approach to litigation. One cannot help but reflect on how different these parties’ lives would be, and the lives of their children would be, if they had not constantly chosen to attend before the courts in regards to their extended personal battle.

The second fact that is shown, unfortunately, is the difficulty in a court system when family cases are dealt with by a series of presiders as opposed to the same presider. I am not being critical of “the system” because I am aware, from working in it for a number of years, that the possibility of having the same presider is a remote one, especially in a large judicial centre such as Vancouver where on any day, 30 or more presiders can be working in one building. That is unfortunately a reality that these people have faced. The result has been, no doubt, considerable wasted time and expense, as the parties have had to explain their personal circumstance and the complex litigation history to a different presider during each court attendance with the limitations that imposes.

The full text of the decision in PDF format can be found by clicking here.

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