Husband in arrears not told he faced jail
Published 29/12/2011 | 05:00
A HUSBAND jailed after failing to pay his wife's maintenance has been freed because he was given no notice that failure to pay it might lead to imprisonment.
Mr Justice Gerard Hogan said the proceedings raised important issues concerning the jurisdiction of the District Court to sentence a defaulting maintenance debtor to prison for contempt of court.
The High Court heard that the man, identified only as DH, had been married since 1993 and the relationship had broken down in 2008. The District Court had made an order requiring DH to pay maint-enance of €1,000 a month.
Mr Justice Hogan, in a reserved judgment following the earlier release of the husband, said the maintenance had subsequently been varied downwards to €600 and DH had paid until February 2011.
He said DH subsequently maintained that his business had suffered and that he wished to have his maintenance payments further reduced.
An application by the husband for a further cut in maintenance had been listed at Bray District Court and adjourned on a number of occasions.
In the meantime, the wife issued a fresh District Court summons in September demanding €3,600 in arrears.
Mr Justice Hogan said the summons gave no warning to the husband that he might be held liable in contempt or imprisoned if he failed to pay. Nor had he been given an opportunity to discharge the arrears. He was convicted of contempt and jailed for seven days.
Mr Justice Hogan said it had been clearly incumbent on the judge to have warned the husband of the consequences of his failure to comply.