10.52: Declaration of civil contempt

Case Summary

The Applicant in this family law dispute asked the Court to find the Respondent in contempt of court, pursuant to Rule 10.52(3), after the Respondent allegedly breached a shared parenting order by enrolling the children in a second childcare facility while they were in the Respondent’s care. Alternatively, the Applicant sought a contempt ruling based on the Respondent’s failure to provide complete financial disclosure as previously ordered and required by the Family Law Act, SA 2003, c F-4.5.

The Court noted that the decision to hold someone in contempt of a court is a discretionary decision, dependent on the satisfaction of three criteria: (1) an existing requirement of the court; (2) notice of the requirement to the person alleged to be in contempt; and (3) an intentional act (or failure to act) that constitutes a breach of the requirement "without adequate excuse".

The Court agreed that the Respondent’s decision to enroll the children in a second childcare facility without consultation with the Applicant constituted a breach of the shared parenting Order. However, the Court found that the Respondent’s interpretation (that doing so, did not constitute a “day-to-day decision” which required consent pursuant to the parenting order), while incorrect, was genuine and not so unreasonable as to rise to the level of contempt. Accordingly, there could be no finding of contempt. Finally, noting jurisprudence describing civil contempt a “a very serious matter,” to be invoked “only in the most extreme circumstances,” the Court held that the Respondent’s incomplete financial disclosure, while improper, was insufficient to warrant a contempt Order and was better addressed through Orders and remedies granted elsewhere in the Decision.

View CanLII Details