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Jail term for man who failed to pay ex-wife’s mortgage

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Listen to our interview about this case with Family Lawyer, Abbi Golightly

In a case which highlights the seriousness with which parties are expected to treat their obligations pursuant to Federal Magistrates Court Orders, Federal Magistrate Michael Jarrett yesterday jailed a man for three months for deliberately flouting orders to pay his ex-wife’s mortgage.

The man alleged that he had no funds to apply towards the mortgage, despite:-

–          Having received a $614,000 redundancy payment;

–          Spending  $40,000 on jewellery for his new partner;

–          Repaying a $22,000 debt for his new partner; and

–          Spending $15,000 on furniture, $30,000 on renovations to his new home, $7,000 on audio equipment and $4,000 on gym equipment.

The man had also secretly sold a BMW motor vehicle and kept the proceeds of sale, despite being ordered to transfer the vehicle to his wife.

Given that the man presented a case that he had no funds available to make good his default, Federal Magistrate Jarrett found that the only option available to him was jail.

Whilst such a sentence may seem excessive to most lay people, in family law we are constantly faced with parties breaching court Orders, whether they be to file material, provide financial disclosure to the other party in the proceedings, pay matrimonial debts or to pay child support or other financial support.  There comes a time when the Court decides that they will not give litigants any further chances to comply with Court Orders and must impose significant penalties (most commonly by way of fines and orders to pay the other parties costs, but jail is an available option for serious breaches).

It is of utmost importance to comply with Court Orders, no matter whether they are simple directions to file material, or Orders to pay money or transfer assets.  In the case of parenting orders, parties are expected to comply with the terms of Court Orders until children are 18 years of age and the Court takes a very dim view of deliberate non-compliance with Court Orders (in the absence of a reasonable excuse).

Parties can file Contravention or Enforcement Applications if they are of the view that their Orders have been breached and the Court can Order:-

  1. In the case of parenting Orders – “make up” time or alternatively completely review the Orders for the living arrangements of children; and
  2. In the case of property Orders – that property be seized and sold in order to make good money owing or that property be transferred to a sufficient value to make good money owing.

The Court is also likely to impose Costs Orders against litigants found to be in breach of Court Orders (i.e. an Order that they pay the non-defaulting parties legal costs).

If you have Court Orders that you are having difficulty enforcing and need assistance in seeking enforcement and compliance with same please do not hesitate to contact Attwood Marshall Lawyers on 07 5536 9777 or email info@attwoodmarshall.com.au or complete an online enquiry form.

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Hayley Condon

Hayley Condon

  • Senior Associate
  • Family Law
  • Direct line: (07) 5553 5805
  • Mobile: 0413 486 402