Contempt in the context of family law involves disobedience of judgments, orders, rules or other processes of the court.

Contempt is dealt with specifically in part XIIIB of the Family law Act. Penalties for contempt can include fines or prison (or both). There is no upper limit specified for such penalties. (We note that imprisonment rarely occurs in the Family Court or the Federal Circuit Court.)

  • Vexatious proceedings

Vexatious proceedings are specifically dealt with in part XIB of the Family Law Act.

Section 102Q defines vexatious proceedings as including:

  1. proceedings that are an abuse of the process of a court or tribunal; and
  2. proceedings instituted in a court or tribunal to harass or annoy, to cause delay or detriment, or for another wrongful purpose; and
  3. proceedings instituted or pursued in a court or tribunal without reasonable ground; and
  4. proceedings conducted in a court or tribunal in a way so as to harass or annoy, cause delay or detriment, or achieve another wrongful purpose.

Section 102QB(2) provides that the court can make any or all of the following orders in relation to vexatious proceedings:

  1. an order staying or dismissing all or part of any proceedings in the court already instituted by the person;
  2. an order prohibiting the person from instituting proceedings, or proceedings of a particular type, under this Act in a court having jurisdiction under this Act;
  3. any other order the court considers appropriate in relation to the person.