Here’s the thing. Getting a court order for someone to pay you money – whether in divorce proceedings or otherwise- is sometimes only part of the story. If a person is bold enough not to obey a court order and doe not pay what they should, then they should, the order has to be enforced.
How to enforce an order? Well, the court does not do it for you. you have to do it for yourself, making whatever applications you think are right to the court so that you get the payment or thing that you were supposed to get.
Enforcement can be difficult in terms of understanding the options and then difficult also in knowing what procedure and what paperwork has to be processed and drawn up.
There as a case earlier this year that neatly encapsulated the minefield of enforcement and it initially began life around my neck of the woods, in Chelmsford, Essex.
Mr and Mrs G were married and divorcing. There was a financial order made on 4 May 2017 that said Mr G was to pay to Mrs G £5,889 from his share of the proceedings of sale of the timeshares or from other capital assets. That was all. No date for when the payment was to be made and no long stop date. The only way it could be interpreted was that the £5,889 did not have to be paid until the timeshares were sold.
By 12 March 2019, Mrs G had not got her money and so she started enforcement proceedings. What she wanted was her money and now also she wanted the legal costs of having to go to court to force payment to her. The court issued a Writ of Control allowing enforcement officers (like the ones you see on the TV) to collect goods from Mr G worth £5,889 plus costs of £117.75 (£6,006.75).
The enforcement officers went to Mr G’s home on 28 March 2019 (again, just like on TV). By this time the debt was £8,34.72. Mr G paid this money to the enforcement officers on his credit cards. The enforcement officers could have taken a car, TV’s anything that could resell for the amount owned but in this case, Mr G offered to pay up.
The following day, 29 March 2019, Mr G made an application to the court, clearly not happy that he had had to pay up. He said that the timeshares had not been sold which was why he could not pay before, that Mrs G was not being cooperative in getting them sold and that he did not have the money to pay her without them being sold. A hearing was set. Mrs G’s solicitors wrote to the court basically saying he owed the money and that they thought the hearing that had been set was in front of the wrong type of judge. (There are different levels/types of judges with slightly different powers). The end result was that the court at Chelmsford sent it up to the High Court in London and it landed before Mr Justice Mostyn, a judge who knows a lot about finances and procedure.
He makes fairly short work of the problem. He trots through the relevant jurisdictional points about who should have done what and in what court (in a very handy list) and ends up with the following:
- The Writ of Control (remember? That document that got the enforcement officers round) was not lawfully generated. It would be set aside (or cancelled as if it never was made in the first place)
- The High Court enforcement officers had to give Mr G his money back.
- The case was sent back to the Family Court at Chelmsford – with a bit of a telling off for it having been sent to London in the first place
- The matter was to be heard by the court for enforcement, basically starting again.
And there got the perils and pitfalls of trying to enforce a court order. The system for enforcement is not great and is being looked at. In the meantime, we are where we are.
If you need help in enforcing a family order, contact me.