Thursday, January 17, 2013

First Thursfield and now Young: Are the courts getting tougher?

Solicitors Journal reports today that the decision of the High Court to imprison Scot Young has been welcomed by family lawyers.

The decision comes, of course, hot (or at least warm) on the heels of the Thursfield case that I posted about here. To recap, in Thursfield the husband was jailed for the maximum two years for contempt, for failure to disclose his assets in financial remedy proceedings.

Yesterday, as was widely reported, Mr Justice Moor jailed Scot Young for six months for "a flagrant and deliberate contempt", in failing to comply with an order for disclosure, in long-running financial remedy proceedings.

The Thursfield decision was described  by lawyers "as a stark warning to husbands who defy the courts in an effort to stop their ex-partners sharing their riches", and Young has now been called "a warning to spouses that the courts, which for so long have sat back in the face of wilful lack of co-operation, may be getting tougher".

So, are the courts really getting tougher on parties who fail to disclose their assets? Well, two cases do not make a change in approach, but they will certainly serve as a warning, and perhaps make parties think twice before they choose to be less than forthcoming as to their financial circumstances.

Let us hope that is the case. Anyone who has done financial remedy work (called 'ancillary relief' in my day) will know how frustrating it can be trying to winkle information out of recalcitrant parties when the courts fail to take a robust approach, and how difficult it can be satisfying one's client with a reasonable explanation for the difficulty.

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