Sanctions for contempt of court can even include jail time as one wealthy divorcee has recently found to the cost of his liberty.

Contempt of court in divorce proceedings can arise if there is any interference with the administration of justice such as a violation of or non-compliance with a court order, disruption of the proceedings, or failure to attend a court when summoned.

How it Might Arise in Divorce Cases

Contempt of court in divorce proceedings is most likely to arise when the party to a divorce case fails to disclose relevant information to the court. This can prevent the court from making a just order taking into account all the circumstances of the case.

The law states that each party to divorce proceedings has a duty to provide the other party with ‘full, frank and clear disclosure’ of all ‘financial and ot
her relevant circumstances’. This is important in order for the court to determine the division of assets.

Concealing Assets

Failure to make full and frank disclosure is likely to be raised in cases where one party suspects that the other has concealed some of their assets such as property or bank accounts. In this case, a Questionnaire may be lodged with the court designed to illicit financial information from that party.

However, if that still does not produce any information, a full investigation can be made into the party’s financial situation.

Young v Young [2013]

In the most recent instalment of a long-running divorce case, Young v Young [2013], Mrs Young sought financial support from her husband, Mr Young, a property tycoon, of up to £1 million owed in maintenance payments from a previous court order. During the course of various hearings, she had claimed that he was worth up to £4
00m which he said had been lost.

In the latter part of the case, Mrs Young claimed that her husband had failed to disclose ‘enormous assets’ which he hid in a secret network of offshore companies. In turn, Mr Young continued to claim that he was ‘penniless’.

In January 2013, the court finally sentenced Mr Young to six-month imprisonment for ‘flagrant and deliberate’ contempt of court. The court made that decision taking into account numerous factors, such as failure to prove the assertion that Mr Young had lost his wealth, non-compliance with court orders and giving ‘absurd’ explanations for his non-compliance, lack of belief that Mr Young would pay a fine if it were imposed and enjoyment by Mr Young of ‘lavish lifestyle’ even though he had declared himself ‘penniless’.

A Firmer Approach

Before the case of Young v Young, courts had been reluctant to exercise their full powers against parties to divorce
proceedings suspected of hiding their assets. However, it is now clear that courts are prepared to take a much firmer stance if a party persistently fails to disclose their assets and defies the authority of the court.


The case reinforces the importance of disclosing all relevant information by the parties during divorce proceedings and serves as a warning to those who fail to do so. The risks are not just fines but, in the most serious cases, prison sentences too. Contact today or call 0113 284 5000 for more information.

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