Enforcing orders about children

What happens if your former partner breaks a court order?

Obtaining Child Arrangements Orders  can be stressful enough; not only on parents but also on the children at the centre of the dispute… so what happens when parents do not comply with the contact order?

One option for the Court is to penalise the offending parent by ordering them to pay costs. Alternatively, if contact orders are persistently breached then ultimately you can apply (or threaten to apply) for the parent breaching the order to be sent to prison.

Another option is for the court to switch which parent the children live with.  If the “resident” parent is not complying with a court order, the court could change the order to say the children live with the other parent.

The common problem with these powers is that, in what are already sensitive cases, these proceedings add further stress and anxiety to the children involved, especially if they result in a parent being imprisoned. They could upset the children.

Legislation introduced in 2008 gave the Court further (and more sensitive) powers to help settle disputes and enforce orders. These include the ability to set “Contact Activity Directions” or “Contact Activity Conditions”. Examples of these directions/conditions include requiring parents to attend classes or meetings with counsellors, or having contact monitored by a Court appointed officer. Where contact orders have been breached (without good reason) the Court can impose unpaid work (up to 200 hours)  or other forms of financial penalty against the offending parent.

All orders issued by the Court come complete with a notice warning parents of the possible consequences of breaching the order.