In July 2016, the Telegraph reported on a divorce case where the husband failed to comply with a financial court order, also known as a Consent Order, which stated that the marital home be sold.
The proceeds of the sale were to be used to pay off the marital debt and the remainder to be split between him and his former wife.
He refused to leave the property and after a very expensive four-year legal wrangle and several failed appeals, he has now been given a final ultimatum.
Get out of the house or face a six month prison sentence!
A husband and his new wife are issued with a prison sentence
Another long-winded and expensive legal battle was the case of Trott V Trott (2015).
This resulted in an ex-husband and his new wife being subjected to a custodial prison sentence following a series of breaches of a court order.
In summary, the new wife failed to produce financial statements required by the court and the husband committed several breaches. He failed to transfer proceeds from the sale of marital assets and he also sold shares in a business, an action the court order prohibited him from doing.
The new wife’s minor breach attracted a 14 day custodial sentence suspended for 12 months to discourage her from breaching any further order. The husband, because of the number and severity of breaches, was given a three month custodial sentence.
Value of Assets is Irrelevant
These two cases clearly illustrate that the courts do not look favourably on people who fail to comply with financial orders.
The two cases outlined above involved relatively high value assets, a house worth half a million in the first case and shares valued at one hundred thousand in the second. However, value is irrelevant! The court will use the power of a custodial sentence even when less valuable assets are concerned.
In 2014, in the case of Hope v Krejci the husband breached a financial court order when he failed to transfer two cars and a motorbike to his wife.
By the time the case came to court he had still failed to make the transfer and the judge ordered that if he had not made the transfer by an agreed date his would receive a 2 month custodial sentence. The value of the vehicles was just £16,000.
In Pocock v Pocock (2013), the husband had agreed to transfer the marital property to the wife, pay the mortgage before redeeming the mortgage before an agreed date.
The mortgage redemption did not happen and mortgage payments were only occasionally paid. The wife had brought the husband back to court several times until she applied to have her husband committed for a custodial sentence. The judge order fourteen days in prison. A sentence which would be suspended but only if he promptly adhered to the terms of the Court Order.
The Cost of a Prison Sentence
Each of these cases share similarities. Each divorce case would have been incredibly stressful for the parties in dispute.
For a court a custodial sentence is a last resort. To get that ‘last resort’ several costly court hearings would have been required which would create a very costly legal bill and for what?
A Court Order is a legally binding document that will be enforced, eventually!
There are Exceptions to Every Rule
Of course there are exceptions to every rule and there is occasion where a breach will be accepted by the court.
If there is a significant event that changes the circumstances of one of the parties to the Consent Order, which impacts on their ability to meet their responsibilities, it may not be enforced.
For example, a former husband is ordered to pay maintenance to his former wife but he is made redundant and he no longer has the means to make the payments. It is unlikely the court would enforce the order until he has the means to do so.
There may also be occasion where a Consent Order is not final and can be appealed.
There are several reasons this could happen. It may be found that one of the parties did not provide a full and honest disclosure of all their assets at the time the Consent Order was made.
If one of the parties was unduly influenced, maybe by violence or blackmail, to accept the Consent Order then the Consent Order could be declared invalid.
Talk to a Family Law Solicitor
Whether or not a Consent Order will be enforced depends very much on the specific circumstances.
If you think a breach has occurred, or you are deliberately breaching the terms of a Consent Order, it is highly recommended that you seek legal advice from a family law specialist.
Ignoring the order of a court could be costly in terms of both your finances and your freedom!
Daniel has over 20 years’ experience as a specialist family law solicitor. He is Head of the Family Law team at Grindeys Solicitors based in Stoke on Trent.
Daniel has a particular interest and experience in dealing with business owners, company directors and members of the medical profession in matrimonial situations. For this type of work a solicitor who understands your business accounts and business structure is vital to obtain the best financial settlement possible.
Recent cases include one involving an international business and extremely valuable assets and pensions, as well as property abroad.
He has acted for numerous doctors and other medical professionals, council workers, police officers and serving members of the armed services. In twenty-three years, Daniel has dealt with all walks of life and will adopt a professional yet caring approach to your situation.