At HMC Lawyers, our team recognizes the importance of pursuing a result favourable to our clients while also trying to keep costs down, particularly as they relate to litigation. Separation and divorce are very stressful periods in a person’s life, and financial stress can serve to compound these difficulties. A recent decision from the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta demonstrates that there is a risk of being too aggressive during litigation.
Separated parents pursue a nesting arrangement
As explained in the decision preceding the hearing on costs, the parties were married in 1994 and separated in 2012. They had two children during that period. Following their separation, the parties started a nesting arrangement in which the children stayed in the family home while the parents took turns living there with the kids.
The father eventually found a new home, and the children went back and forth between that home and the family home where the mother remained. The older of the children moved into the father’s home when he started university in 2017. Meanwhile, the younger child lives overseas.
The original hearing concerned retroactive and ongoing child support. The trial lasted six days and issues such as the income of each party and whether the children remained “children of the marriage” pursuant to the Divorce Act were sorted out.
Neither party was 100% successful at the original trial. They could not come to terms on costs and appeared once again before the courts.
The mother and the father each seek costs
The father’s legal team argued that he was “significantly more successful” on the issues at trial, including the quantification of the matrimonial property division, guideline incomes, and retroactive child support. He sought $52,345 in costs.
The mother, meanwhile, argued that she was “substantially successful,” focusing on the equalization of matrimonial property, the individual items of matrimonial property, and on her position at trial being generally close to the court’s decision. She sought $22,500 in costs.
The court turned to the Rules of Court, which outline the authority to award costs. Factors to consider include:
- The result of the action and the degree of success of each party;
- The amount claimed and the amount recovered;
- The importance of the issues;
- The complexity of the action;
- The conduct of a party that tended to shorten the action; and
- Any other relevant matter that might be appropriate.
The court explained that the conflict between the parties was high, with the matter taking seven years to eventually conclude. The court explained that while neither party was entirely successful, the mother’s position on many issues had been unreasonable, including refusing offers to settle that were ultimately more generous than she received at trial. The court explained that the mother also provided an overwhelming amount of evidence related to the costs of parenting their children, including receipts for small items such as $7.00 water jug refills and $4.00 badminton practice fees.
Due to the mother’s conduct during the trial and the run-up to the trial, the father was successful on costs, though he did not receive every dollar he asked for.
At HMC Lawyers, our team’s approach focuses on finding positive solutions through negotiation and mediation on behalf of our clients. We endeavor to resolve disputes in an efficient and timely manner, thereby minimizing stress to our clients. If court is required, we have the support of a respected litigation firm.