Chief Justice: Family court orders not 'requests'

Rampant disregard for the Family Division of the Cayman Islands Grand Court has forced the chief justice to issue practice directions to attorneys and their clients stating that court orders are indeed orders.  

“Orders made by the Family Division of the Grand Court are not preferences, requests or mere indications; they are orders,” Chief Justice Anthony Smellie wrote in a circular dated Jan. 29. “Practitioners and those who appear before the Grand Court are reminded that orders … must be complied with to the letter and on time.”  

Family court matters such as divorces, adoptions and child custody disputes rarely make the pages of the newspaper in the Cayman Islands, partly due to severe restrictions placed by the court on the reporting of those issues. 

The lack of adherence to family court rules is not unique to Cayman, according to the chief justice.  

Sir James Munby, president of the family court division of England and Wales, bemoaned the subject as recently as last month in court cases and other writings.  

“[There is] a deeply-rooted culture in the family courts which, however long established, will no longer be tolerated,” Sir James wrote in “7th view from the President’s Chambers.”  

“I refer to the slapdash, lackadaisical and on occasions almost contumelious attitude which far too frequently characterizes the response to orders made by family courts. There is simply no excuse for this,” he wrote. 

Chief Justice Smellie, without pointing to any specific family court cases, said the same goes for Cayman.  

“The concerns … are equally applicable to the response to orders from a number of attorneys and parties involved in the proceedings before the Family Division of the Grand Court,” the chief justice wrote.  

If parties in a case cannot comply with court orders, they are not entitled to agree variations to those orders among themselves without obtaining the court’s approval first, Chief Justice Smellie said.  

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