Divorce – could I be sent to prison?

Will the Family Court lock up a party to the proceedings for not complying with an order made in children or family cases?

Well, the High Court recently sentenced an estranged Husband to prison for 6 months for what is reported as “flagrant and deliberate” contempt of Court for failing to explain properly his financial circumstances in proceedings brought by the Wife.

The Court had previously ordered the Husband some 4 years earlier to pay maintenance at £27,000 per annum, which he failed to pay giving rise to arrears approaching £1m.

The Husband had apparently informed the Court that he was without funds and bankrupt, despite being thought to be worth in the region of £400m and being unable to show the Court how he had allegedly lost his wealth.

This is clearly an exceptional case but reminds us of the Court’s powers to impose a custodial sentence upon a defaulting party who is found to be in Contempt of Court, and reminds us that the legal system is to be respected.

A contempt may arise in a number of circumstances, fundamentally where a party has failed to comply with directions issued by the Court, for example to provide documentary evidence to the Court/other party by a certain deadline, notwithstanding earlier penal notice warning from the Court that if they default they may be found in contempt of Court and penalised accordingly.

The Family Court has power to imprison a party found in contempt of Court for up to 6 months. The Court also has power to impose financial penalty, such as a fine and, or alternatively, to make a costs order against a defaulting party. In general terms, therefore, to default on a Court order is likely to significantly therefore prejudice your case.

For further information and advice please contact our Family team – family@blasermills.co.uk