What the court can do when the final financial remedy order isn’t obeyed

It’s trite to say it, but a financial remedies court order is worthless if it can’t be enforced.

Just how you go about enforcing an order depends upon the circumstances, in particular the type of order. A lump sum order, for example, can be enforced just like any other debt, and a maintenance order will often be enforced by an attachment of earnings order, taking the amount owed out of the payer’s wages.

But a financial remedies order may contain other provisions apart from lump sum and maintenance orders. What if the other party tries to obstruct the implementation of those provisions?

The situation arose in not one but two recently published Family Court judgments.

The first case concerned a final financial remedy order made in May 2021. The order provided for three rental properties to be transferred from the wife to the husband, and for the wife to retain the former matrimonial home.

The order was not fully implemented. The husband claimed that the wife had deliberately sought to frustrate the order and delay its implementation.

We need not go into the details of the claim, but the husband said that these attempts had caused him significant financial loss, by reducing the value of the properties he was due to receive.

The husband therefore applied to the court for a further lump sum payment, to compensate him for the losses he said he had suffered.

The judge agreed that the wife had prevented the implementation of the order, and that the husband had thereby suffered loss. She therefore awarded the husband a further sum of £100,000, so as to achieve a fair outcome that preserved, so far as is reasonably possible, the intention behind the original order.

The second case concerned a common problem arising from financial remedy orders. In January this year the court made an order providing that the former matrimonial home, which was occupied by the husband, should be sold.

But the wife claimed that the husband was refusing to cooperate in the sale by (amongst other things) failing to provide copies of the keys to the property to the wife’s solicitor, who was to have conduct of the sale, and ignoring attempts by the appointed estate agent to contact him in order to gain access to the property for the purpose of preparing marketing information and arranging viewings.

The wife therefore asked the court to bring forward the date by which the husband had to vacate the property, so that he could no longer obstruct the sale (the order only envisaged that the husband vacate for viewings).

The judge agreed that the husband had not complied with the order and therefore ordered him to vacate the property within six weeks, failing which the wife would be able to apply to the court for a warrant to physically remove him from the premises.

You can read the judgments in the cases here and here.

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