Many divorcees experience difficulties in enforcing financial orders against reluctant ex-spouses. However, they can take some comfort from a case in which a business tycoon received a 21-month jail term for his ‘breathtaking’ defiance of court orders in the midst of a ‘big money’ divorce.
The husband was required to transfer the former matrimonial home to his ex-wife and to discharge outstanding finance on her Bentley car. He was also ordered to pay her lump sums totalling more than £5 million and to pay six-figure annual maintenance to her and their children. Although he had consented to the divorce settlement, he had serially defaulted on his obligations.
He had repeatedly disobeyed orders to attend court in person and to provide details of his means and financial dealings. Attempts to secure his compliance by requiring him to lodge share certificates with the wife’s solicitors were undermined when he obtained duplicate certificates and promptly sold the shares.
The husband argued that he would be ruined financially if imprisoned. However, the Court found that his acts of contempt were deliberate and about as serious as they could be. He had shown no more than token remorse and the sentence imposed was close to the two-year maximum available for contempt.