Keyes v Keyes, 2018 SKQB 191

Under the obligation of a family law court order, parties must understand the gravity of their circumstances and do their best to comply with the order. Failure to do so can result in a finding of contempt, which may have severe consequences.

In Keyes v Keyes, the divorced parties both signed a consent order to settle the division of their property. It was agreed that the petitioner would receive the matrimonial home, located in Mexico. This required that the respond either travel to Mexico to sign the transfer documents or provide her former spouse with a limited power of attorney to sign on her behalf.

The respondent refused to sign the documents, either in person or by a power of attorney, and was unwilling to find a compromise. Because of this impasse, the petitioner asked the Court to find the respondent in contempt. The Court was willing to find the respondent in contempt, noting that both parties were represented by experienced counsel, and that the respondent was well aware of her obligations under the consent order. The Court underlined that orders must be followed unless set aside by a legal process. The appropriate method of disagreeing with the Court is to seek an appeal, not refuse to comply.

The Court also warned the respondent of the possible repercussions for contempt under the Queen’s Bench Rules, which can include fines or even imprisonment. However, the Court also noted that it has the discretion to provide a person the opportunity to correct their defiance. With this in mind, the Court was willing to provide the respondent with the opportunity to sign the documents and adjourned.

For clients facing family law disputes and unfamiliar with the practice of law, it is important to take the lead of the court and to follow any orders they agree to or are issued by the Court. The proper way to disagree with an order is an appeal. Simply ignoring the order invites a finding of contempt – and all the punitive consequences that come with it.