LEGAL COMMENT: 83 year old Husband jailed for breach of Family Court order

Matthew Taylor comments on the latest update in the case of Hart v Hart...

An 83-year-old property developer has been sentenced to 14 months in prison for contempt of court following repeated breaches of orders made in his financial remedy proceedings.

We first addressed the case of Hart v Hart in September 2017 when the Court of Appeal dismissed the wife’s appeal that she should only receive £3.5 million out of a £9 million asset pot. But, despite retaining the lion’s share of the family’s assets, the husband, John Ralph Hart, has failed to comply with orders of the court in respect of a property company.

The husband was ordered to transfer his shares in Drakestown Property Ltd to his ex-wife, Karen Hart. He delayed doing so, forcing the wife to apply to the High Court to gain access to the premises.

However, after her application had been granted, she discovered that her husband had removed all management records. He was ordered on two separate occasions to provide the records to his wife but failed to do so, leading to his imprisonment for “serious contempt” and being ordered to meet his wife’s £100,000 legal costs.

Mr Hart is now appealing his conviction.

Regardless of the outcome of the appeal, this case highlights the powers that the Family Court has when dealing with non-compliance with orders. In addition to imprisonment, the court has the power to:

  • Seize and sell a debtor’s goods.
  • Obtaining a charging order over property or shares owned by the debtor.
  • Make a third party debt order, which is where the court directs a person who owes money to a debtor to pay it directly to a creditor. This can be used to direct a bank to pay the contents of a bank account in the sole name of a debtor to the creditor.
  • Make an Attachment of Earnings Order, in which income from employment or a pension is paid directly to the creditor.

What is clear is that the Family Court treats breaches of orders extremely seriously and will not hesitate to apply serious remedies to ensure an order is put into full effect.

If you are experiencing difficulties with the implementation of an order made by the Family Court, contact our Family Team for a free 30 minute consultation to discuss your case.

Matthew Taylor is a solicitor in the family law team at national law firm Weightmans.



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