Wow – $25,000 was the amount that a custodial parent was ordered to pay to an access parent in costs for inappropriately terminating access. The case, Hussain v. Alam, 2013 ONSC 2250 (CanLII), is an excellent example of a Court applying the objectives to costs in family law matters. It also demonstrates the effective use of an early offer to settle.

In awarding costs, Ontario Courts are to attempt to promote settlement and discourage unreasonable behaviour. This costs award will hopefully serve to deter the unreasonably controlling parent.

As well, this case saw the access parent serve an offer to settle at the outset of the proceeding, which demonstrated his attempts to act in a reasonable manner and try and reach an earlier and more cost efficient resolution. There is no doubt that this positive behaviour raised the stakes for the custodial parent in the costs assessment. $25,000 on a two issue motion is a very significant award.

I suspect that there was something more going on in the case, with the parties both being represented by excellent, senior family law counsel, but this case should serves as a reminder to all parties involved in family law litigation – act reasonably or pay. Note as well that the custodial parent would have had to pay her own counsel fees in addition to the costs award against her, and if we assume counsel’s costs were in the range of the access parent’s costs, this motion cost the custodial parent $65,000!