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Digest of the Week | Costs

Costs awarded against a government agency in Ontario Superior Court of Justice case

DeBiasio v. Ontario (Director, Family Responsibility Office)

2016 CarswellOnt 4995

Ontario Superior Court of Justice

Family law --- Costs — Support

Mother was awarded custody of two younger children and father was awarded custody of older child — Father was ordered to pay child support — Two children who were living with mother moved in with father — Parents negotiated consent to terminate child support but Family Responsibility Office (FRO) continued to take steps to enforce support order — Father was granted refraining order — Costs submissions received — Father awarded costs of $7,500, inclusive of HST — FRO unreasonably exercised its mandate to enforce when it was clear that there had been material change in circumstances based on move of children, there was dispute over amount of arrears owing and it was likely matter would be before court within short period of time — FRO had discretion to continue to escalate enforcement but decision could be subject to costs award — Proceeding with enforcement in circumstances was costly to father and to court — Fact father knew some arrears might have been owing did not excuse aggressive enforcement action that FRO took — FRO failed to fulfill its duty to provide timely and meaningful responses to inquiries from father's counsel — While costs awards against government agency should not be typical, different standard should not be applied to FRO than to other family law litigant — Issue was important but it was not legally complex — Lawyer's rates were reasonable but there was small amount of duplication of effort — Expenses incurred were reasonable — Father made offer to settle that FRO did not respond to, which was relevant factor to take into consideration.

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