How can a woman get current tax information from her former spouse?

A common legal bullying tactic of abusive men is to slow down family court proceedings by failing to file documents in a timely manner or by filing incomplete documents. Nowhere is this more common than with the filing of Financial Statements, which are required whenever there is a claim for support (child or spousal) or a division of property.

Eventually, the case will move ahead, because either the abuser will file what is required or the judge will make an order for the case to move ahead without his materials, but important matters can be slowed down significantly in the meantime. As well, women may incur additional legal costs if their lawyer has to pursue the abuser for his documents. Women who do not have a lawyer are forced to pursue their former partner themselves, which can be physically dangerous as well as emotionally exhausting. It is also highly stressful for women, who may need money to start flowing so they can support their children.

Unfortunately, even getting an order for child or spousal support does not necessarily bring an end to the need to pursue the payer for information. Support orders under the Family Law Act require the payer to provide annual information about their income by no later than 30 days after the anniversary of the date on which the order was made, in every year providing to the support recipient:

  • a copy of their personal income tax return and any attachments for the most recent tax year
  • the notice of assessment and any notices of re-assessment

Few payers ‘remember’ that they have this responsibility, and so women must chase them down every year to get the information. Annoying and time consuming as this may be for  a woman whose partner is not abusive, this hunt for information can become high risk for a woman whose former partner is abusive and is intentionally trying to evade child support responsibilities.

A woman whose partner has failed to produce the required tax information can bring an application for production in family court. The judge can issue an order that:

  • Finds the payer in contempt of court
  • Awards the woman`s full costs against him, and/or
  • Requires him to produce the necessary documents in a timely manner

If you are supporting a woman whose partner will not produce his current tax returns, you can assist her in meeting with a lawyer, perhaps by using a 2-hour advice certificate or by meeting with family court duty counsel, so she can discuss what is the best course of action for her to take.

You can also assist her in making a list of any attempts she has made to get her former partner to produce the required documentation and the outcomes of those attempts.

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