Divorce proceedings can become incredibly heated as all kinds of wild accusations fly across the courtroom. But can a divorce trial actually send people to prison? While this is always technically a possibility, the reality is that spouses rarely see the inside of a jail cell due to the outcome of divorce proceedings. If they do go to jail, it is usually the result of something quite unrelated to their marriage – perhaps a crime that was inadvertently revealed as a result of the trial. 

There are rare cases in which spouses can be sentenced to legitimate jail time for their conduct and behavior during their divorce trial. There have been a few notable examples as of late, and these stories highlight the fact that you can never quite predict what will happen during a divorce. 

When Financial Misconduct Leads to Prison

Before we get into the specific stories, let’s go over why someone might go to prison for financial misconduct during a divorce trial. Concealing assets is probably the most obvious example, although it is actually quite rare for spouses to experience criminal charges for this. Technically, this constitutes a breach of fiduciary duty between spouses. More commonly, spouses who engage in this behavior are forced to pay the other party’s legal fees, and they often end up handing over more assets during the property division process.

Spouses are probably most likely to go to prison after being charged with contempt of court. This often happens when spouses fail to pay child support and become delinquent in their payments over a long period of time. 

Frederick Barclay Faces Prison Due to Divorce

In the UK, Frederick Barclay is facing a prison sentence due to his failure to pay a 50-million-pound settlement to his former wife. Barclay is probably best known for owning media organizations such as The Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Telegraph. He and his twin brother David have an estimated combined net worth of 7 billion pounds. 

Frederick, now 87, was charged with contempt of court after he failed to pay the first installment of his divorce settlement to his former wife, Hiroko. This is only the first half of a 100-million-pound total settlement. The next 50 million pounds are due next year. Of course, prison is an unlikely outcome, as Barclay can still simply pay the sum of money. He can also prove that he is unable to pay the sum, but that seems an unlikely prospect given his tremendous net worth.

Woman “Forgets” She Got Divorced When Trying to Claim Late Husband’s Estate

A woman in Ireland has been given a suspended prison sentence after she attempted to claim her husband’s estate – after the divorce had been finalized. In fact, the divorce had been finalized a full four years before her ex-husband’s passing. In 2019, she claimed that she had no memory that the divorce ever took place and later stated that she did not think a divorce would impact her ability to claim her ex’s wealth. However, she clearly submitted documents that suggested she was the legal spouse, so the argument did not really hold up to scrutiny. She was eventually sentenced to one year in prison, but the sentence was suspended.