A wealthy businessman has been threatened by a judge with a jail sentence for failing to comply with a court order that required him to pay money to his ex-wife. The businessman, who has assets of £375 million, now has until the end of September to pay the £400,000 which he owes to his former wife.

The threat of jail was the latest in a long-running battle between the businessman and his former wife who had been married for 18 years and have 4 children.

In earlier proceedings, the businessman was ordered to pay his former wife £17.5 million and maintenance payments totalling some £300,000 a year for her and their four children. The judge also found that the businessman had made a number of attempts to conceal part of his assets, some of which were held in a company over which he had exclusive control.

The businessman has said that he intends to appeal the Judge’s jail ruling but if that goes against him and if he does not pay, then it is almost certain that he will have to serve the sentence.

In another recent case, a judge ordered that all the assets belonging to a consultant anaesthetist and his former wife should be transferred to her because he had failed to comply with a maintenance order. The doctor had told the court that he had no intention of complying with the court order in the future. A number of points arise from these sad examples of blatant defiance of court orders but there are two which are of particular importance.

  1. If a court has to decide the financial arrangements applying to former spouses after divorce proceedings, the law requires that each of them is entirely frank and straightforward in disclosing their respective financial positions. If the court decides that one of them has tried to hide assets or a source of income, then the Judge can take that lack of candour into account in making the decision as to how the finances are to be divided.
  2. If one of the parties does not like the terms of the order made by the Judge, then he/she can attempt to appeal the order and have it reviewed by a higher court. Once the order is finalised, however, it becomes legally binding and the court expects that it will be obeyed. Courts treat very seriously any attempt to avoid compliance with a court order.

As solicitors dealing with cases for clients who are unfortunate enough to become involved in a dispute concerning finances following the break-up of a relationship, we will always do the best we can to meet their reasonable expectations, having given clear advice on their legal position. In some cases, of course, there will be a genuine difference of view between the parties as to the appropriate outcome. If it proves impossible to find a sensible agreement without going to court, our clients can rely on us to put their cases as firmly and fairly as possible.

Once a final order has been made, either with or without an appeal, then it is our professional duty to advise clients to comply with court orders. As explained earlier, a failure to comply could result in dire consequences. These might include the serious risk of being sent to jail or losing all the available assets.