The recent case of Aslezova v. Khanine 2023 ONCA 153 serves as a crucial reminder of the importance of financial disclosure and compliance with court orders. This case sets a precedent that could have far-reaching implications for how we handle non-compliance in family law disputes.
Aslezova v. Khanine at a Glance
Janna Aslezova and Mikhail Khanine, a couple married for about 20 years, found themselves embroiled in a family law dispute. The Court of Appeal upheld the lower court’s decision to strike out Khanine’s pleadings due to his willful failure to comply with multiple court orders, including a consent order for financial disclosure. Khanine had moved to Israel post-separation and had not returned to Canada since 2017. Despite multiple orders and a detailed disclosure order concerning millions of dollars in assets, he failed to provide the necessary financial documents.
Key Developments from Aslezova v. Khanine
Striking of Pleadings: An Extraordinary Measure
The court emphasized that striking out pleadings is an extraordinary measure, reserved for exceptional circumstances. It should only be used when no other remedy would suffice. This sets a high bar for such a drastic action and serves as a cautionary tale for parties who might consider flouting court orders. In particular, the Court stated:
“It is well established that while discretionary, the remedy of striking pleadings is extraordinary and should only be used sparingly and in limited and exceptional circumstances, and when no other remedy would suffice.”
The Paramount Importance of Financial Disclosure
The court reiterated that the most basic obligation in family law is the duty to disclose financial information.
This is not a mere formality but a cornerstone of the family law system. Failure to comply can lead to severe consequences, including the striking of pleadings.
Wilful Non-Compliance: A Risky Game
The court noted that willful failure to comply with disclosure obligations is considered “egregious and exceptional”. Those who choose not to disclose financial information or ignore court orders risk losing their standing in the proceedings. This is a significant development that underscores the gravity of non-compliance.
Implications for Family Law Practitioners
- Due Diligence: Ensure that your clients understand the importance of financial disclosure and the severe consequences of non-compliance.
- Risk Assessment: Evaluate the risk of non-compliance and advise your clients accordingly, especially in complex cases involving substantial assets.
- Court Orders: Treat all court orders with the utmost seriousness. Court Orders are not suggestions. Non-compliance is not just risky; it can be catastrophic for litigants.
Final Thoughts on Aslezova v. Khanine
The Aslezova v. Khanine case serves as a stern reminder of the critical importance of financial disclosure and compliance with court orders in family law proceedings. Although legal counsel need no reminding on this point, the case provides a cautionary tale which all clients should be made aware of, particularly those who may have a penchant to flout the fundamental obligations governing all family law litigants. Failure to adhere to these basic principles can result in severe consequences, including the loss of one’s standing in legal proceedings.
So, the next time you find clients questioning the importance of financial disclosure or compliance with a court order, remember Aslezova v. Khanine to provide guidance on the consequences of flagrantly disregarding the obligations which are fundamental to all family law cases.
Let’s continue to elevate the practice of family law in Ontario!