Suspended prison sentence for husband who did not file Disclosure Form

When a financial remedies claim is made then both parties will be required by the court to file a Form E financial statement, setting out full details of their means, so that the court can decide upon a fair settlement.

But what if one party fails to file a Form E?

Well, there are various options available to the other party, but perhaps the most drastic is to seek the committal to prison of the party who has not complied with the requirement, for contempt of court.

This occurred in a recently-published judgment that was handed down by the High Court in London last October.

The judgment concerned an application by the wife in financial remedy proceedings for the committal to prison of the husband for contempt of court for his failure to comply with an order made in January 2023 requiring him to file a Form E by the 1st of May 2023.

The order had a ‘penal notice’ attached to it, warning the husband that he if he did not comply with the order he would be guilty of contempt, and may be committed to prison.

Despite this, the husband failed to comply with the order, and the wife therefore issued her application.

The application went before Mr Justice Moor. As he explained in his judgment, he had to be satisfied to the criminal standard of proof that the husband was in contempt, meaning that he had to be sure beyond reasonable doubt that he was in contempt.

In the event the husband accepted that he was in contempt, and accordingly the contempt was proved beyond reasonable doubt.

It therefore remained for Mr Justice Moor to decide upon the sentence to impose.

As he stated, there are two aspects to a sentence for contempt. The first is punishment for not having complied with an order, which is a very serious matter of itself. The second is to secure compliance with the order in the future.

Mr Justice Moor found that only a custodial sentence would be appropriate in this case, in view of the seriousness of the contempt.

However, he felt that a very important objective was to get a comprehensive Form E from the husband. He therefore decided that he should suspend the sentence of imprisonment.

Accordingly, he sentenced the husband to imprisonment for a total of 56 days, suspended on terms that the husband complete a comprehensive Form E setting out his financial position, within 28 days.

He also warned the husband that if there was a further contempt, the sentence was likely to be far longer, and be immediately imposed.

You can read the full report of the judgment here.

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