Sir Frederick Barclay was handed a suspended sentence last week for not paying his ex-wife’s maintenance and legal fees.

Sir Frederick Barclay, the businessman, could face a jail sentence after a High Court judge accused him of being in contempt of court for not paying his ex-wife £245,000 ($296, 000) in legal fees and monthly maintenance costs.

Lady Barclay, his wife of 34 years, said the 87-year-old had breached a judge’s order to pay her the money. He was able to pay it but did not, and she urged the judge to give him a jail sentence.

But the criminal standard of proof was not established for Barclays’ failure to pay his ex-wife the £100 million divorce settlement.

The tycoon was told to return to court in two weeks for sentencing when he could be jailed or fined.

Family Partner, Emily Brand comments: “Sir Frederick should be under no illusion that failing to comply with the court order could lead to a prison sentence unless he pays his former wife the £245,000. It is relatively common for people to be imprisoned for contempt of court.”

“We are seeing more cases where estranged spouses are hiding assets with third parties and offshore holdings in order to deprive their former partners of a fair divorce settlement. These sometimes opaque financial arrangements prevent the court from having a clear picture of all the assets held, making it much harder to conclude a just settlement.”

“Where assets, such as businesses, are held by third parties it can be particularly difficult to enforce an order.”

“Assets held in jurisdictions outside of the UK are much harder to pursue in divorce settlements, as the courts in the foreign jurisdiction may refuse to enforce the English order.”

“A freezing injunction can be used to prevent a spouse from moving assets overseas before a financial settlement has been determined or agreed. This may be the only option if there is a risk that assets will be moved and as a result the value of the "matrimonial pot" will diminish to the potential detriment of the financially weaker spouse."

Emily's comments first appeared in Wealth Briefing on 1st August 2022.