The intricacies of family law are often fraught with ethical dilemmas and complex legal issues. One such issue—fraudulent divorce—takes center stage in Rong v Tan, 2023 BCSC 1664. This case serves as a compelling study of how fraud can undermine the very foundations of legal proceedings, casting a spotlight on the intersection of law, ethics, and professional responsibility in family law.
The Case: Rong v Tan
The case revolves around Wei-Hong Rong and Xu Juan Tan, who manipulated Section 8(2)(a) of the Divorce Act to obtain a divorce order under false pretenses. As Justice Gomery aptly noted, “I must add that I approach the evidence of both parties with considerable caution. Both acknowledge having lied under oath to subvert the law’s requirements and obtain a quick divorce.” (Rong v Tan, 2023 BCSC 1664, para. 17 – emphasis added)
The Divorce Act‘s Section 8(1) stipulates that a divorce can only be granted upon a proven breakdown of the marriage. The parties provided false addresses in their pleadings, thereby misleading the court.
Findings of the Court on Fraud in Rong v Tan
1. Acknowledgment of Fraud and Credibility Issues: Both parties acknowledged having lied under oath to subvert the law’s requirements and obtain a quick divorce. The Court approached the evidence of both parties with considerable caution due to their acknowledged lies.
“I must add that I approach the evidence of both parties with considerable caution. Both acknowledge having lied under oath to subvert the law’s requirements and obtain a quick divorce. Other aspects of their evidence also cause me concern.” (Rong v Tan, 2023 BCSC 1664, para. 17 – emphasis added)
2. Nullification of Divorce: In light of the fraud perpetrated by the parties, the Court set aside their divorce.
“I conclude, somewhat reluctantly, that the divorce order must be set aside. A divorce was not, in law, available to the parties at the time the order was made. The policy of the law is that a divorce should not be too easy to obtain. Divorce proceedings are particularly vulnerable to collusive practices such as those in which the parties engaged in this case. Section 11(1)(a) of the Divorce Act expressly...” (Rong v Tan, 2023 BCSC 1664, para. 32 – emphasis added)
3. No Costs Ordered: The fraudulent and collusive conduct led to the court’s decision to not order costs.
“In light of the parties’ fraudulent and collusive conduct in action E20889 in the New Westminster Registry, Ms. Tan’s breach of the order of Norell J., and Mr. Rong’s refusal to accept obligations imposed in orders of the Court and the Court of Appeal, there will be no order as to costs.” (Rong v Tan, 2023 BCSC 1664, para. 153 – emphasis added)
The case of Rong v Tan serves as a cautionary tale that adds a layer of complexity to family law practice. It underscores the need for meticulous due diligence and reaffirms our roles as ethical practitioners in upholding the integrity of the judicial system.
Let’s continue to elevate the practice of family law in Ontario!