Court imprisons father for refusing to obey court orders

Following a divorce or separation of parents the parents or the courts usually make decisions on which parent will have custody of the child and when the children will see the other parent which is also known as child arrangements.

Many parents fail to understand that if they breach court orders then this could have serious repercussions. If one parent continuously fails to obey court orders then the other parent can refer the matter to the court.

Options available to the court where a parent fails to obey court orders

Courts take the failure to obey court orders very seriously and the court has a range of options at its disposal when determining and considering such issues which are:

  • An enforcement order or a suspended enforcement order
  • Variation of the child arrangement order
  • Referring parents to a separated parents information programme (SPIP)
  • Order for compensation or financial loss
  • Committal to prison, or
  • A fine

We will consider the case of Richards v Martins (2017) in which the father was failing to obey court orders and the consequences of such actions. The case also illustrates that children should not be used in a dispute over their arrangements.

The case concerned a father who had separated from the mother. The parents had four children who were aged 13, 11, 10 and 9. Following the separation of the parents all four children remained with the father who provided contact arrangements for the mother.

The eldest child however later left the father and decided to live with the mother. The father requested contact for the child which left however this did not take place as the child expressed her views that she did not wish to see her father.

Father retaliates to not having contact with one of the four children

In retaliation to the eldest child’s wishes of not seeing the father he responded in two ways:

  • Denying the mother contact with the three other children whom the mother had been seeing once every fortnight. The father failed to take the children to the collection point for the contact with the mother on nine occasions. The fathers reason for refusing to obey the existing court was that the children did not want to go and see their mother and that he could not force them to go.
  • Surprisingly the father also claimed that the children were at risk of sexual abuse during contact with their mother.

Court considers the fathers claims about failed contact

The court considered the fathers reasons for failing to obey the court orders in place. The judge noted when hearing the evidence that children greatly enjoyed seeing their mother and had even told her over the telephone, they miss her and “Daddy won’t let us see you”. The mother had frequently asked the children ‘Why don’t you ask Daddy if you can come’ and the children replied, ‘Daddy won’t let us’.

The judge did not believe the father’s evidence and noted “from his stance on previous occasions and his stance today I know that it is not true that the children do not want to come. The fact is this father is very angry with this mother”.

The court also considered the fathers allegations that the children were at a risk of sexual abuse during contact. The father stated he had some text messages and telephone messages which showed evidence of sexual abuse. The judge requested the father to bring the telephone to court as evidence of the allegations of sexual abuse. However, there were no such messages. Therefore, the judge concluded there is no evidence whatsoever of the alleged sexual abuse.

Judge believes father deliberately failed to obey court orders

The judge concluded that the fathers breaches are too serious and have gone on for too long a time. The father had been given chance after chance and several opportunities to comply with the Orders. The father has just not adhered to the court decision and the court orders at all, and I am now going to sentence him to a term of imprisonment of 28 days.

The judge also interestingly noted that when the father was going to be remanded in custody, he said “he loved the children, but he loved himself more and the mother can have the kids if I would release him”. By the father’s comments the Court were of the view that there were no problems between the children and the mother, and the father just simply blocked the contact.

The case is an example of the father believing he was treated unfairly by not being able to see his eldest child, and as a result of this he used the children in a way to try and get revenge and made false sexual allegations which affected his case even more. The father could have quite simply made an application to the court for contact with his eldest child.

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