Top 5 Most Ridiculous Divorce Cases

Happy Valentine’s Day! It is that time of the year when love is in the air. In celebration of this romantic day I would like to offer a friendly reminder to everyone that sometimes love leads to bitter divorce.

This article lists what are, in my opinion, the top 5 most ridiculous divorce cases in the past year. On the bright side, these cases may help you appreciate your significant other that much more… or be a happy reminder of why you are single.

1. The Lawsuit over $34.84 in Canadian Tire Money

During a marriage couples almost always blend their assets. One type of asset that usually receives less attention in divorce proceedings is loyalty points accumulated through household shopping. However, for every rule there is always an exception, and some jilted couples are bitter enough to sue over the matter.

Nikolaev v Fakhredinov, 2015 ONSC 6267, takes the award for Canada’s most vindictive divorce judgement. Among the many items listed for judicial apportionment, “[t]he parties could not settle a difference of $34.84 concerning the value of the Canadian Tire account” (para, 92). Unsurprisingly, the lawyer’s fee for settling the dispute was well above $34/hour. The judge ended up splitting the amount down the middle and probably had a good laugh in his chambers afterward.

2. Bickering Over Cats and Dogs

For many couples, their pets are their babies, so to speak. So it is no surprise that there is a high volume of divorce cases fighting over the custody of pets.

Justice Richard Danyliuk seems to have had enough of listening to divorcing parties bicker over pet custody based on his remarks in Henderson v Henderson, 2016 SKQB 282.

Justice Danyliuk began his decision with the simple statement: “after all is said and done, a dog is a dog. At law it is property, a domesticated animal that is owned. At law it enjoys no familial rights.” And concluded it with the comment that although he could “appreciate the importance these dogs have in the lives of these parties. Nevertheless, each party is legally bound to consider the foundational rules (not to mention common sense) when deciding how to conduct this litigation.”

In Henderson v Henderson, the divorcing couple had decided to forgo having children and instead adopted numerous pets. The couple had four very uniquely named cats: Rodent, Slimey, Oinky and Beaker. At trial, there was evidence adduced against the husband that he was in fact a cat person, despite being “improperly inattentive” to the cats.

The main dispute was not over the cats (the husband didn’t want them) but over the couple’s dogs. The husband was seeking visitation rights to the couple’s two dogs and wanted the matter determined on child custody principles. The judgment tells the harrowing story of how the couple acquired their three dogs Quill, Kenya and Willow (nicknamed “Willy”), as well as the tragic death of a fourth pet dog, Reign.

The decision details how the wife felt betrayed when the husband went to take one of the dogs on a walk and then refused to return him. Thankfully, after more than a month, the parties were able to work out the return of the dog amongst themselves.

The judge eventually decided to mandate that the dogs should stay where they were (with the wife) and urged the parties to use common sense and decency to uphold their informal visitation agreement. Hopefully, his numerous statements about court delays and the need to deal with actual child custody and serious family matters did not fall on deaf ears.

3. Spousal Support for Cats and Dogs

When custody (or “ownership”) is finally settled over the family pets, the dispute does not always stop there. In the 2015 case, Slongo v Slongo, 2015 ONSC 2093, Ms. Slongo requested $755 a month in spousal support for the couple’s 10 cats and 5 dogs.

The purposes of spousal support include a need to recognize a spouse’s contribution to the relationship, alleviate financial hardship, and rectify any economic advantage or disadvantage to a spouse caused by the relationship or its breakdown. Ms. Slongo’s counsel argued that the relationship between spouses resulted in inequality because they had purchased the pets together, but since the separation the financial burden had fallen largely on Ms. Slongo and thus she was under financial duress.

While $5000/month in spousal support was eventually awarded, it is not clear from the judgement whether that amount included support for the family pets.

4. A Sheer Waste of Judicial Resources

In Slack v Slack, 2016 ONSC 946, a couple argued over the amount of spousal support to be paid to the farmer’s former wife. The fact that the farmer’s ex-wife was “mauled by a cow” was not even the most ridiculous part of this case: this couple required 60 court dates in Toronto before being able to settle their dispute. I can only imagine the legal bills.

5. Judge Breaks Upwith Disputing Couple

         Usually it is the couple that breaks up because they can’t stand to listen to the other person’s argument, not the judge. Nevertheless, Justice Dyer of the Provincial Court of British Columbia frankly told a couple that it was no longer appropriate for them to argue their case in front of him in the case of R (ZS) v S (R), 2016 BCPC 200.

Waiting until paragraph 149, Justice Dyer took it upon himself to make an order that he would not hear future matters pertaining to the couple (unless there was some emergency situation where no other judge was available). The judge stated that his reason for the order was that facing a new judge would add a strong incentive for the couple to settle the dispute outside of court; but we can speculate that the Justice’s own fatigue from listening to a prolonged dispute getting nowhere may have had something to do with it.

 

* For 9 hilarious war-stories from divorce lawyers, see also: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/21/divorce-stories_n_5008367.html

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2 Responses

  1. Nemo says:

    You may regard being mauled by a cow to be ridiculous (Slack vs. Slack) but I assure you that it is not a laughing matter. Injuries from farm animals are an occupational hazasrd in agriculture and should not be trivialized.

  2. Wade says:

    Judge (not Justice; Justice is the title for Supreme Court and higher judges) Dyer’s order is not, in my experience, unusual. I practice in a small town where you tend to get the same judge over and over even if (s)he’s not seized with the case and have, on more than one occasion, heard a judge declare that (s)he will no longer deal with a particular family case because (s)he is no longer able to be judicial with respect to the parties to it.

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