In the recent matrimonial case of Young and Young, High Court Judge dealt with the legal principles relevant to applications about seizing a passport or where one party (in this case the Husband) seeks the release of the passport.
In brief, the Husband had been found in contempt of court in relation to financial disclosure (which means that he either failed to disclose all the required documentation or the information he provided was purposely inaccurate and he remained in contempt of court in relation to £915,000.00 of maintenance payments. The court ordered for his passport to be impounded and the Husband applied for the release of his passport as he wished to travel to Africa to engage in charity work. He had to visit a us passport office to check the status of his passport. Wife opposed the application in the light of his conduct during the financial proceedings and sought that the Husband’s passport should continue to be held until after final hearing. Furthermore, a further questionnaire was due to be served on the Husband and she argued that he needed to be in the country to answer it. The High Court Judge agreed with the Wife and stated that Husband’s passport should continue to be retained for further 9 months allowing the Husband to apply again for a discharge.
In his judgment, Mostyn J considered the following principles:-
1. The power to impound a passport pending the disposal of a financial remedy claim exists in principle in aid of all the court’s procedures leading to the disposal of the proceedings.
2. But it involves a restriction of a subject’s liberty and so should be exercised with caution. The authorities emphasise the short-term nature of the restrain. The law favours liberty.
3. A good cause of action for a substantive award must be established.
4. The applicant must establish that there is probable cause for believing that the respondent is about to quit the jurisdiction unless he is restrained.
5. And the applicant must further establish that the absence of the respondent from the jurisdiction will materially prejudice her in the prosecution of her action.
6. Provides that the principles mentioned above are carefully observed a passport impounding order will represent a proportionate public policy based restrain on freedom of movement founded on the personal conduct of the respondent.
Seizure of the passport is therefore seen as a restriction of one’s liberty and freedom and courts will apply caution when making such an order. If you are worried that your partner may leave the country before your financial matters are settled or have any questions generally, please do not hesitate to contact a member of the team at James Maguire & Co who would be happy to assist you.
Maguire Family Law is a specialist firm of Family Law and Divorce Law solicitors based in Wilmslow, Cheshire. We offer legal advice to parties going through a divorce including the financial issues which flow from this (including pensions), linked business issues, international aspects and any relevant issues concerning the children. We also offer legal advice in relation to matters covered in this blog and general Children Law advice.