The family court has once again showed that they will be taking breaches of orders seriously and that offenders should be prepared to face rather stark consequences.
The facts of W v S (Committal) EWFC B130 are simple: at the heart of the anonymised case was a Schedule 1 application. The respondent father provided a partial Form E in the course of proceedings which led to the adjournment of the first appointment hearing.
The order postponing the first appointment hearing reiterated that the father needed to provide a full Form E by way of disclosure. The father refused, on the grounds that full disclosure would reveal the identity of his friends and associates, and information pertaining to his financial circumstances would allow the applicant mother to damage his standing.
When the father once again refused to disclose a full Form E, the mother made an application for committal. The father said that he was not guilty of non-disclosure because he had provided some of the information and that he would see them in court.
At court, it was held that the father’s justifications for not providing the information were insufficient; he had been told exactly what should have been disclosed, he had been given ample opportunity to disclose the information, and he was aware of the implied undertakings to keep any disclosed information confidential. Although this was his first breach, it was a wilful breach and showed flagrant disregard to the court proceedings.
The judge sentenced the father to 14 days of imprisonment. The sentence was suspended to give the father one more chance to meet a date for disclosure given by the court.
This is not the first time the judges in family courts have taken a strong stance. See Charlotte Sanders’s blog on cases involving committal proceedings, particularly the case of Bell v Shepstone EWCC 6 (Fam).
The recent decision shows that the family courts are committed to the enforcement of financial orders and will take any breaches of court orders in this respect very seriously.
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