As I took my short lunch break today, I decided to eat lunch at my desk in order to get a jump on the work I have to do, I heard the news that a father of two has been committed for contempt of court for failure to comply with a court order to serve his Form E. The case is that of Ball v Shepstone  EWCC 7 (Fam) and the judgement can be found here: http://www.familylawweek.co.uk/site.aspx?i=ed120712.
The father, Neil Shepstone, failed to appear at the committal hearing as the judge sentenced him to 14 days imprisonment for failure to comply with the court order. The order was made on the 3rd of October 2013 and had been extended until the 14th of October 2013 to allow Mr Shepstone to submitted his Form E, however he still failed to do so.
This is not the first time that an individual has been sentenced to a prison term for failure to comply with a court order in a family law case, that case of Button v Salama  All ER (D) 61 (Oct) being another recent example. Here the father breached a number of court orders that required him to ‘provide details of, inter alia, the current care arrangements of the child in Egypt, including the name of the person with full primary care and contact telephone details, the address at which she was located, and the current school which she attended. The father was also required to procure the return of the child to the UK.’ Having breached both of these orders the father was sentenced to concurrent terms of six months’ imprisonment for each breach. These sentences were to be served consecutively to the sentences imposed in July 2013 when the father breached previous orders. Further information on this case may be found here: http://www.criminallawandjustice.co.uk/clj-reporter/Button-v-Salama-2013-All-ER-D-61-Oct.
The fact that the courts appear to be acting in a way that ensures those that break orders within family law cases are adequately reprimanded for doing so, seems to be an attempt to send out a message that ignoring court orders in family law will not be accepted. This message can only be supported by practitioners within the area. The failure to comply with court orders only leads to the expenditure of costs, frustration, time wasting and can often impact on the child at the heart of the case. It is possible to argue that the courts previous inaction could have somewhat encouraged those that wished to break orders to go ahead and do so. The apparent new stance on such action emerging within recent cases seems to stamp out the allusion that the court will not act against those who wilfully break the orders it hands down.
John Bolch, a family law commentator wrote an interesting article about the case of Ball V Shepstone and its effect on financial proceedings on Marilyn Stowe’s blog. This can be found at http://www.marilynstowe.co.uk/2013/11/11/form-e-what-happens-if-you-refuse-to-file-it-by-john-bolch/