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Breach of a Court Order: Penal Notices – what are they and how can they help?

What are they?

A penal notice is essentially a warning attached to a court order setting out that if the other party (“the respondent”) fails to comply with the court order, they will be held in contempt of court.

If the respondent then fails to comply with the order made, the other party (“the applicant”) may apply for a committal order against them for this breach. If the court is satisfied that there has been a breach, and therefore contempt of court, they have the power to imprison, fine or seize the assets of the respondent.

How can they help?

The sanctions for breaching an order set out above can appear harsh; and so they should be.

Breaching a court order is not a trifling matter and the possible consequences of such a breach reflect that. Within the family law context, a penal notice – or even the threat of one – can be an extremely effective tool to ensure compliance with court deadlines and progressing a matter. This is because it is not uncommon for one party to drag their feet and not want to engage in proceedings or disclose something.

In essence a penal notice is a precautionary tool within proceedings and a committal order should only be sought and exercised as a last resort. However, the penal notice itself should not be forgotten or underestimated as an instrument available to parties in family proceedings.

Rayden Solicitors are family law specialists who can assist in relation to all aspects of family law, including court orders. If you require legal advice about any of the issues raised in this blog, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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