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What Happens When a Contact Order Is Breached?

So you have a contact order (or a child arrangements order stating that your child is to have contact with you), but the other parent fails to comply with the order. What can you do?

Selachii LLP

If you are unable to resolve the issue with the other parent, either directly or through mediation, then you will have to return the matter to the court, asking the court to enforce the order.

Before the court takes any enforcement action it will want to know whether there is any good reason why the order has not been complied with. For example, the circumstances may have changed in some way since the order was made. In such a case the court may prefer to vary the terms of the order to take those changes into account and to see if the contact can be made to work, rather than take immediate enforcement action.

If there is no good reason for the contact order being breached then the court can take enforcement action against the parent breaching the order. The court has the following enforcement powers:

The court can attach a penal notice to the order, if one has not previously been attached. The penal notice states that the order must be obeyed, or a breach can be punished by a fine or imprisonment, as mentioned below (a court cannot fine or imprison a person for breach of an order unless a penal notice was attached to it). Note that all child arrangements orders automatically include a penal notice, and also a warning notice, stating that if the order is not obeyed then an enforcement order or a financial compensation order can be made, as also explained below.

The court can commit to prison the person in breach of the order for contempt of court, for a period of up to two years. Note that this power is usually used by the courts as a last resort, normally where there have been a series of blatant breaches of the order. The court will also of course have to consider who will look after the child whilst the parent caring for them is in prison.

The court can impose a fine of up to £2,500 upon the person in breach of the order.

The court can make an enforcement order. An enforcement order imposes an 'unpaid work requirement' (also known as 'community service') upon the person in breach of the order. In deciding whether to make an enforcement order, the court will have to be satisfied that the making of the order is necessary to secure compliance with the original order and that the order is proportionate to the seriousness of the breach. Before making an enforcement order, the court will also have to obtain and consider information about the person on whom the order would be imposed, and the likely effect of the order on them including, in particular, any conflict with their religious beliefs, or times at which they are at work or attending an educational establishment.

Lastly, the court can make a financial compensation order. Where the breach of the order results in the other party suffering a financial loss, for example travel expenses, then the court can order the person who is in breach of the order to pay compensation to that party, up to the amount of the loss.

In addition to the above, where a contact order has been breached the court can, if it considers that it is in the interests of the child's welfare, order that any order stating that the child is to live with the parent in breach be discharged, and replaced with a child arrangements order stating that the child is to live with the parent who has been denied contact. Such orders transferring residence are, however, rare, and are used as a last resort.

To speak with a solicitor today call Selachii LLP on 02077925649 or email info@selachii.co.uk

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