09 January 2013, by Taylor King Family Law Solicitors
In the case of Thursfield v Thursfield the husband was sentenced to a maximum of two years imprisonment for contempt of court.
The application was brought by the wife against her former husband relating to a financial remedy judgment made in Michigan. The wife sought to enforce the order of the Court of Michigan in the courts in England and Wales. It was held that the parties had a sufficient connection with this country to do so despite still living in Michigan.
There were previous orders in these proceedings requiring the husband to make specific financial disclosure with to which, to all extents, he failed to comply.
The husband maintained that his assets merely consisted of a couple of pensions he could not access and he deliberately refused to say what had happened to a payment of £3.5 million he had received from one of his former employers adopting a “couldn’t care less” attitude about the orders for disclosure (compounded by his absence at this hearing).
The wife suspected that her former husband had hidden his assets behind his new wife or a trust enabling him to continue his lavish lifestyle and not comply with any court orders. This suspicion was made more persuasive when the husband replied to a question about how he funded his legal fees by stating that they had been funded by his new wife.
His Honour Judge Purle QC held that the husband was in contempt of court. It was suggested by counsel for the husband that he should be given one last chance to make disclosure or any sentence should be suspended. However, Judge Purle held that neither of those options presented would “adequately reflect the gravity of the breaches in this case”. He therefore imposed the maximum sentence of two years imprisonment; twelve months as a punitive sentence and twelve months “as a coercive measure in order to encourage full and prompt compliance hereafter”.