5 March 2013
Family Law – If you are not prepared to provide financial information be prepared to “go straight to jail without passing GO”
In Neufeld v. Nesbitt, the Supreme court had occasion to consider a contempt application following a party’s refusal to provide financial information for the purposes of matrimonial proceedings. The Respondent(a Dr. this case) had been ordered to provide financial disclosure of his assets and income. He had neglected to do so and by the time the application came before the court, had provided evidence of various requests made to his accountants for the completion of certain financial documentation and their “apologies” for the delay.
Despite the suggestion (with evidence) that he had been trying for some time to source the information (which at first blush appeared to be a reasonable explanation) on closer inspection the court found that much of the information which he had been ordered to disclose was known to him and did not require the assistance of accountants. In those circumstances, and given the significant delay in the proceedings brought about by the noncompliance with the court order, the court found that the only reasonable means of “punishing” the contempt was to sentence Dr. Nesbitt to five days in jail (and special costs).
Obviously, the penalty imposed was an extraordinary remedy and although not clear in the decision, likely recognizes significant ongoing breaches of the rules. Nonetheless, the decision recognizes the fact that court orders are not to be triffled with and in certain (albeit exceptional) circumstances the court is prepared to use its powers to punish noncompliance
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