BC Supreme Court dismisses contempt application in 'high-conflict' family law case

Claimant failed to prove that the respondent deliberately contravened a court order

BC Supreme Court dismisses contempt application in 'high-conflict' family law case

The BC Supreme Court dismissed a contempt application in a “high-conflict” family law case involving the occupancy and contents of a chalet at Apex Mountain.

In Lamoureux v Hedquist, 2024 BCSC 1056, the claimant sought to have the respondent found in contempt of an order requiring him to vacate the chalet he had occupied exclusively since the parties separated in July 2021. The order also prohibited him from removing any fixtures, furnishings, or household contents except for personal effects. The claimant alleged that the respondent removed various items from the chalet, valuing the replacement cost at $234,335.65, and sought an order for contempt and payment of this amount.

During the trial, the parties had expressed strong desires to retain the chalet, leading the court to order sealed bids to determine who would buy out the other's interest. The bids were opened, with the claimant emerging as the successful bidder. The claimant took possession and claimed that numerous items were missing or in poor condition, affecting her plans to rent the chalet.

The respondent denied removing any items in violation of the order, stating that he only took personal belongings, tools, and a sea can container, which he believed were not covered by the order. He provided explanations and photographs to support his claims and agreed to return some items, such as a barbeque and basic tools.

The Supreme Court noted that in family law cases, Rule 21-7 of the Supreme Court Family Rules governs contempt applications, requiring proof beyond a reasonable doubt of three elements: a clear order, the respondent's knowledge of the order, and intentional breach of the order.

The court found that the respondent had actual knowledge of the order. However, it determined that the order was ambiguous regarding what items could be removed, particularly concerning the sea can container and tools. The court resolved this ambiguity in favour of the respondent, noting the absence of any submissions on these items before the order was issued.

The court also concluded that the claimant failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the respondent deliberately contravened the order. The claimant had not been present at the chalet for over three years and relied on speculation about the items' presence at the time of the order. The respondent provided plausible explanations for the items' removal or replacement before the order.

The court dismissed the contempt application, noting that it appeared ill-conceived and possibly motivated by ongoing animosity between the parties. The court criticized the claimant for not taking inventory before bidding and found her valuations unsupported and inflated.

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