contempt of court, and then there’s contempt for those who don’t pay
maintenance for their families. And it’s
this category of miscreant who seem to be caught in a Dickensian time warp.
court is a relatively well known remedy and we’ve all used it at some time in
our careers when our well behaved clients have turned to us for the fourth time
in their divorce and said: Yes, but how do we get my wife/husband to do what
they’ve been ordered to do? Why are we
letting them run rings round us – again? And we mumble something about contempt
proceedings, and our hearts sink as we check the very exacting procedure and
get on the phone to the process server.
those well publicised cases like Young v Young
EWHC 34 (Fam),  1 FLR 269
contempt proceedings are still alive and well
in this jurisdiction. And rightly so if
our whole legal structure is not to be brought into disrepute.
Look at the
recent case of Button v Salama (No 2)
 EWHC 2972 (Fam),  1 FLR 479
where the father refused to comply with an order
directing him to disclose the whereabouts of a child. A just and appropriate outcome, particularly
when the high stakes are factored in. But then the court has to be prepared for
litigants who refuse to comply with the orders even from the discomfort of
their prison cells. Once it’s been
demonstrated that coercion is not going to work, how does the court respond?
didn’t 'give in' to the pressure and eventually there was a financial trial
where Mr Justice Moor pieced together the financial evidence before him and
made an order requiring Mr Young to pay £20m. An order that Mr Young has yet to obey but,
because this was a lump sum order and not an order for maintenance, Mrs Young
and her advisers do not have the option of threatening Mr Young with a return
to prison. All she can do is keep a watchful eye on his movements
and pounce on any assets that may come to light or that he may acquire in the
future. Recently she’s sought the help
from an ex-CIA man, so far with no success.
proceedings are not unknown in family courts although judges are careful not to
send litigants to prison on a whim.
Taking away someone’s liberty is a very serious issue causing much prior
judicial scrutiny of proper process, and second chances.
the benighted souls who do end up in prison never seem to be the mothers in
breach of contact order after contact order, notwithstanding the enormously
damaging consequences to the children that simply cannot be measured in
monetary terms. Why is that viewed
entirely differently from, say, the behaviour of the father in Button v Salama (No 2)
welfare was at the heart of the case and viewed so seriously? Welcome to the double standards that operate
in the family court.