In a recent Ontario decision, a father was found in contempt of court for failing to disclose his IP address to the mother and was ordered to pay her a fine of $2,500.
Father Found in Contempt of Court
The parents had a brief relationship which lasted less than two years. Their daughter was born in 2018.
The mother fled the relationship due to the father’s physical, verbal, emotional, psychological, and financial abuse. The father had been charged with criminal harassment towards the mother.
On November 23, 2018, the mother had obtained a court order requiring that the father disclose to her “any and all IP addresses, cell phone numbers and email addresses the [father] owns, uses, or to which he has access for his own use with respect to communication to or about the [mother]”. The deadline for the disclosure was August 1, 2019.
The mother had sought thedisclosure to prove that the father had been making inappropriate and derogatory online postings about her. The mother believed that the father has made multiple derogatory social media posts about her on nine different websites, all of which has caused her a great deal of stress and embarrassment.
The father denied being involved in the online posts and did not comply with the order for disclosure. He claimed that the order was vague and open to interpretation. He argued that it was nonsensical and simply could not be complied with.
As a result, on August 10, 2020, the father was found to be in contempt of court. However, he was given an opportunity to purge his contempt by August 31, 2020. He failed to do so.
Mother Seeks Penalties
Because contempt proceedings occur in two steps – the first being the contempt hearing and the second to determine the penalty – the court was tasked with deciding the father’s penalty.
Rule 31(5) of the Family Law Rules states that if a court finds a person in contempt, it may order the following: (a) be imprisoned for any period and on any conditions that are just; (b) pay a fine in any amount that is appropriate; (c) pay an amount to a party as a penalty; (d) do anything else that the court decides is appropriate; (e) not do what the court forbids; (f) pay costs in an amount decided by the court; and (g) obey any other order.
The mother made submissions to the court and sought the following sanctions against the father:
1) Imprisonment for a period of three days;
2) Payment of a fine in the amount of $5,000;
3) An order that the father could not denigrate the mother, make any commentary or post any pictures or videos about this case, the mother and the child, as well as remove any such commentary, videos or pictures immediately, to the extent it is in his control to do so; and
4) An order dispensing with the father’s consent to allow the mother to deal directly with or obtain disclosure from any third-party record holder with respect to any online postings or commentary about the mother or the child.
Court Makes Orders Against Father
The court began by stating:
“A Court Order is not a suggestion. There are consequences for non-compliance […].
Sentencing is comprised of two components: (a) restorative to the victim of the contempt; and (b) punitive to the contemnor […].
A sanction must be proportionate to the nature of the contempt and the mitigating and aggravating circumstances. It must also not deviate from a marked departure from those imposed with similar circumstances.”
The court then explained that the following factors must be considered when determining an appropriate sentence in civil contempt matters:
- the available sentences;
- the proportionality of the sentence to the wrongdoing;
- the similarity of sentences in like circumstances;
- the presence of mitigating factors;
- the presence of aggravating factors;
- the reasonableness of a fine; and
- the reasonableness of incarceration.
The court stated that, while any breach of a court order is serious, some are more serious than others. In this case, the court found that father’s breach was at the lower end of the spectrum of seriousness. Further, the court explained that incarceration is only reasonable where the lesser restrictive sanctions are not appropriate; although the court found that the father had demonstrated a clear refusal to comply with the 2018 order, it did not find that incarceration was warranted in the circumstances. Finally, the court stated:
“The Father does not appear to be particularly concerned about complying with a Court Order or attending Court proceedings. The Father’s behaviour needs to be discouraged and sanctioned.”
As a result, the court ordered that the father pay a fine of $2,500 to the mother, in addition to paying her costs in the amount of $5,500. The court further ordered the father to not denigrate the mother, make any commentary or post any picture or video about the case, the mother or the child. Finally, the court dispensed with the father’s consent for the mother to deal directly with or obtain disclosure from third parties with respect to any malicious online postings about the mother or the child.
At Feigenbaum Law, our goal is to help you move forward following the breakdown of a relationship while retaining as much financial stability as possible and ensuring your children are provided for. Mark Feigenbaum is able to counsel his clients on all potential risks that may result from a family law dispute, not just those related strictly to the breakdown of a marriage. Contact Mark online or call him at (905) 695-1269 or toll-free at (877) 275-4792 to book a consultation.